Can I Make a Difference or Not?

images 23Hamlet posed his existential quest for life with the famous phrase “To be or not to be, that is the question.”  I woke up this morning wrestling with a somewhat different question.  I wanted to go back to sleep.  It was too early to get up.  It was dark and cold.  I did not want to leave my nice warm bed but something inside of me was in war over the question of whether I can make a difference or not in the world.  Am I a fool and charlatan or a man with meaning and purpose?  You might say it was my pessimist side fighting with my optimist side.  It seemed more like my nihilist attitudes battling with my existentialist attitudes.  Or perhaps it is my cynicism versus my somewhat subdued optimism.  I will simply call these two voices “Doom and Gloom” versus “Hope and Possibilities.”  The struggle between the two voices went as follows.

Doom and Gloom:    You have nothing to live for.  Your life is a waste.  You have screwed up more things than you have made right.  No one cares what you think. You are not making a shred of difference in the world.

Hope and Possibilities:  If you quit now, what were all your struggles and efforts for?  You must believe in yourself; you can make a difference.

Doom and Gloom:  Show me any of your successes.  Do you have a single win in life that you can feel proud of or that you can say really changed the world or made a difference?

Hope and Possibilities:  Do you remember what Mother Teresa once said “I am not called on to make a difference, I am called on to have faith.”  You may never know if you are making a difference in the world but like buying a lottery ticket if you don’t buy one you can never win.

Doom and Gloom:  You have about as much chance of making a difference in the world as you do of winning the lottery.  Nobody cares about what you think or say.    

Hope and Possibilities:  History is made by people who did not give up.  Look at all the people who made a difference by their examples.  Jesus, Socrates, Mandela, Rosa Parks.

Doom and Gloom:  It goes without saying that you are no Jesus or even a Rosa Parks.  Many of the people that you mention were martyrs.  Do you aspire to make a difference by being a martyr?    

Hope and Possibilities:  I have been willing to take risks all of my life.  I have stood up for people.  I have stood against bullies.  I have risked any reputation or career advancement to stand up for integrity and morality.  No, I do not want to die for what I believe.  I would like to live a long and happy life.  But I will not change my beliefs to pacify or to conform to what others want to hear.

Doom and Gloom:  That is why you will never be successful in making a difference.  No one wants to hear your political diatribes and rants.  Your opinions are like raindrops on a duck’s ass.  People just want to be happy, and you are trying to make people unhappy.

Hope and Possibilities:  Probably true.  Over the years, I have said many things that people reject or that they think are even stupid ideas.  I have been guided by a desire to change how people think and what they see.  Einstein once said that “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”  I have tried to think out of the box.  I see the world so different than so many people I know.

Doom and Gloom:    And what did this get you?  Converts?  No, enemies, loss of friends, arguments, disillusionment.  There is also a saying that goes “Insanity is defined by doing the same things and expecting different results.”  You my friend, are bordering on insanity.  Your blogs and writings have not made one bit of difference in the world.

Hope and Possibilities:  I have about two thousand readers each month who look at my blog and many of them have left positive comments.

Doom and Gloom:    You are preaching to the choir.  You are not reaching the people who will make a difference in the world.  You have a small fan club.  You do not get as many hits on your site in a month as Kim Kardashian gets in one hour on her site.

Hope and Possibilities:  If you want to hurt someone, you really know how.  If I make a difference with one person, I want to believe it makes my efforts worthwhile.

Doom and Gloom:  Sure, go ahead and keep telling yourself that myth.  You know you would really like to have more people listen to your ideas and to help support some of them.  Over the years, I have seen so many ideas come from your feeble brain and to date, I have not seen a single one of them adopted by anyone with the power or influence to implement them.  Ideas by themselves cannot make a difference.  You need power and action.   

Hope and Possibilities:  You are depressing me.  I want to say that you are wrong.  I am losing this battle.  I am not sure that I have anything left to say that could change your mind.

Doom and Gloom:   Maybe it is about time that you wake up and smell the roses.  If you need a purpose or goal in life, perhaps it is time to pick something else.  Time to stop being a Boy Scout.  The world will little care or long remember anything you say here.

Hope and Possibilities:  I guess this is where being an atheist is a liability.  I cannot fall back on Jesus, God, Saints, Zeus, Odin or any other supernatural being for help or for divine intervention.  I can only go on by faith in myself and by believing that whether or not I make a difference, I cannot give up trying.  I may not be the best in the world but I won’t lay down and do nothing.

Doom and Gloom:  The final words of a fool.      

Hope and Possibilities: 

“Just because an apple falls one hundred times out of a hundred does not mean it will fall on the hundred and first.”  ― Derek Landy

I finally slid out of bed after kissing my wife “good morning.”  It was still dark and cold.  I went into the bathroom to take my morning shower.  My mood brightened considerably but I still have not resolved the battle with myself.  I sometimes doubt that I ever will.  I need to be grateful today for what I have.  I need to help someone else and stop struggling with my ideas of success and failure.  I need to practice love and gratitude and not whether or not I have made a difference in the world.

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The Day I Met the Bar Room Bum

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I’m sitting in a bar feeling shitty about my life.  I have an average job.  I have an average looking wife and average kids.  I’m feeling shitty about myself as well.  I have accomplished nothing beyond average in my entire life.  I had once thought I was destined for greatness.  I dreamed that one day I would have the best-looking wife on the block and make more money than I could count.  None of my dreams have come to pass and I am now sitting here in this average bar nursing a cheap drink and wondering where I took the wrong turn.

Suddenly, the bar room door opens and in walks this seedy looking bum.  You know the type.  Long stringy hair, dirty clothes, smelly and unkempt.  He has probably not bathed in a month.  I hope he will not come and sit down next to me.  I know he will try to bum a drink.  If he does, I will tell him to go to hell.  I am not in the mood to shell out good money for some alcoholic bum.

Sure enough, he sits down next to me.  I give him the evil eye and he moves on down to the two guys sitting at the other end of the bar.   I watch some give and take between the bum and the other two drinkers.  They are shaking their heads and I assume telling him to get lost.  He walks back over to where I am sitting and takes a seat.

bum in bar

“Hey mister, can you buy me a drink.”  “Get lost”, I say, “I’m not a charity for bar bums.”  “How about some compassion for someone’s who’s down on their luck.” “You want compassion” I reply, “go visit a priest.”

“What if I could tell you a story that would profoundly change your life” says the bum. “Would that change your mind?”  “Tell you what” I say, “you tell me the story and if it profoundly changes my life, I’ll buy you a drink.”   I expect this will get rid of the bum but instead he agrees to my terms.  “Deal” he intones in a low soft voice.

“My name is Mike.  Twenty years ago, I graduated from Harvard University with a degree in law.  I had the highest GPA average in my graduation class.  At least five major law firms in Boston attempted to recruit me.  I took the one that offered me the most money.  I received a high six-digit salary.

Happy man enjoying the rain of money

I bought five of the best suits I could find.  I purchased a Porsche Carrera GT and a penthouse with a view of the Boston harbor.

I was assigned easy cases at first.  We represented the big corporations in their lawsuits.  Most of these were by disgruntled employees, whistle blowers and private citizens.  I killed each of them.  I was assigned bigger and bigger cases.  The amounts contested often ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars.  Many of the cases involved issues of sexual harassment, environmental degradation and fraud.  I never lost a case.  My corporate clients were ecstatic.  I was the go to guy for any high profile big buck lawsuit in the nation.

My life was a dream.  I made more and more money.  My salary was now in the seven digits with my bonuses and gratuities from my clients.   I was invited to celebrity parties and the super exclusive country clubs of the rich.

I was tall dark and handsome.  I worked out six days a week in the gym and I had a body that was the envy of any guy in the firm.  The woman all drooled when I walked by.  I bought a bigger penthouse and added a Ferrari 458 Spider to my car collection.  The car was given to me by a grateful client.

One day at the office, the firm’s owner and founder introduced me to his daughter Ashley.  She was a knockout.  She was a former Miss College USA.  She was tall blonde and statuesque.  She had the face of any angel.  Sadly, she did not have the brains to match her looks.

I was polite to her but made no obvious overtures to show that I was interested.  She did not really care as just about every other male and even some female lawyers were thinking about how to get in bed with her.  I decided to pretend to ignore her.

We had a Christmas party at the firm later that year.  It was held at the Boston Harbor Hotel.  I saw Ashley and she was surrounded by a bunch of our lawyers each trying to impress her.  I decided this was a good time to throw my hat in the ring.  I joined the conversation and soon showed how stupid most of my competition was.  Each one in turn drifted away so that only Ashley and I were left talking.  I went to the bar and returned with another drink for Ashley and myself.  We talked for another half hour or so and I made my move.

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I invited Ashley up to my penthouse for a night cap.  In no time at all, she was in my bed.  I am not bragging when I say that not only did we go at it all night, but I called in to cancel appointments the next day and we spent the entire next day in bed going at it like deprived bunny rabbits.

As I said before, she was not the brightest light bulb in the pack but I figured where I was going, it would be good to have a looker like her as my wife.  A few months later in what was one of the Boston social events of the year we were married.  We moved into a new house in Back Bay.

I eventually left the law firm and started my own firm.  Some of the old firm’s clients went with me and I was now making more money than ever.  I worked seven days and week.  I was busy many evenings and did not bother coming home.  I bought a penthouse near my new office in Boston and brought my mistresses up there whenever I had an overnight.  I had hired several very good-looking paralegals to work for me and some of them were more than happy to help keep me warm at night.

Ashley started talking about having children and how she wished I could do more things with her.  I had no intention of doing either.  Why spoil a good thing?

woman on top sexuallyA few more months went by and one day I decided to come home from work early.  As I entered my house, I heard screams coming from upstairs.  I went to a desk and grabbed a loaded Colt Commander 45 ACP that I kept ready for emergencies.  I feared that Ashley was being attacked by some unknown intruder.  I ran up the stairs and into our bedroom.  There on the bed was Ashley and one of the young lawyers from my old law firm.  They were both nude and she was on top of him riding him like a bucking bronco.  What I thought were screams of pain were screams of ecstasy.  I had never heard anything like that from Ashley during our entire marriage.

She turned to look at me but did not break a beat in her rhythm.  The only thing she said was “Get out.  I want a divorce.”  I vacillated between shooting one or both of them but decided that my better course of action was to leave.  On the way out, I heard her say very loudly “Take off that damn condom, I want you to come inside of me.”

I packed some stuff and moved into my penthouse apartment.  I really did not give a damn if she left me.  At the time, I assumed I would be out some alimony but that would-be pennies compared to what I was making.  A week or so later, I received a letter from my father-in-law.  He informed me that not only would my old law firm be suing me for spousal neglect but I would be sued 150 million dollars for violating the terms of my contract when I had left his law firm.  Somewhere in the fine print of my contract, it had specified that I could not work with any of the firm’s clients for a period of five years upon terminating my employment.

The court convened for my trial a few weeks later.  Ashley showed up for the trial.  She sat with her lover on the plaintiff’s side of the court and glared at me the entire trial.  I lost on all counts.  I was told that I would have to pay 5 million dollars in restitution and was disbarred from practicing law for ten years following the date of the trial.  I lost everything.  My house, my cars, my penthouse apartment, my jewelry and my career.  Between my ex-father-in-law and my ex-wife, I was broke.  The only friend I had left in the world was Johnny Walker Blue Label and I could not even afford that anymore.

I took up drinking cheap whiskey.  It has been five years now since the trial.  I have five more years to go before I can practice law again.  I know that I am an alcoholic bum but can you blame me?  I told you that there would be a life changing moral in this story for you but before I give it to you, I want my drink.”

Mike had concluded his story.  I wondered what the life changing moral would be.  I had some ideas but curiosity got the better of me.  I decided to buy him his drink and let him finish his tale of woe.

“Bartender” I called, “bring my friend here a shot of Johnny Walker Scotch.”  The Scotch was quickly downed by Mike with a look of joy and ecstasy on his face that would be hard to describe.

“Okay”, Mike began “I have had many years to reflect on my life and where it went wrong.  I also know that not a man alive would at some point in their life not have been envious of mine.  The sad part and the moral is that we all want things that we think will make us happy when the real happiness is what we have inside and what we bring to life, not what life brings to us.”  With these last words of wisdom, Mike got off his bar stool and went out the same way he came in.  I never saw him again.

I sat for an hour or so after he left thinking about what he had said.  Just a few minutes before he had entered the bar, I was bemoaning my sorry life and denigrating my family.  I decided to go home and hug my wife and kids.

Happy family in front of house

Many years have past since I met Mike.  My life is pretty much the same as it was before I met him, except that I have never been happier.  My wife is beautiful and my kids are beautiful.  I would not trade my life for all the money in the world.

Time for Questions:

Do you appreciate what you have?  What does it take to make us happy?  Is money an essential element of happiness?  What if you had no money, could you still be happy?  What is the most important person or thing in your life?  Why?

Life is just beginning.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” — Melody Beattie

I Am Going So Fast and Getting Nowhere Faster

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How often have you heard the aphorism that “The journey is more important than the destination?”  A related wisdom was one that we used in my consulting firm when I was working for Process Management International.  I believe we stole it from some of Dr. W. E. Deming’s writings.  It was that “The process was more important than the outcome or results.”

Throughout my life I have tried to live by each of these.  It is not always easy to follow something that you know is true and that will make your life better and happier.  As the saying goes “There is many a slip between the cup and the lip.”  Knowing is not necessarily doing.  So, let’s look at how we can make our vacations and trips more fun and more meaningful.

“The journey is more important than the destination.”  As simple as this sounds, do you know what it means?  If we really knew the meaning not just in our heads but in our hearts, it would be difficult to ignore.  However, that is what most of us start off doing.  We plan a vacation or trip, and we talk more about where we are going than how we are getting there.  My father used to measure the success of a vacation by how quickly he could get to our endpoint.  He had no time to stop and see any attractions along the way.  He tried to avoid even stopping at a motel.  Most of the time, he would drive all night and let us sleep in the car along the way.  He would brag about how fast he could get someplace.  I hated trips with my father.  They lacked any semblance of fun.

When I started canoeing, I was obsessed with paddling as fast and as far as I could on each of my trips.  A good canoe mentor named Joe Conrad cautioned me that I should stop and smell the roses more often.  Once I heeded his advice, my canoeing became more fun.  Even along a lazy winding rural river, there are so many sights to see along the way.

I am sure that you have often heard that “I need a vacation from my vacation.”  Whenever, I hear this, I think of my first trip to Europe.  We rented a car and tried to see every European country (Almost) in a week.  A friend of mine warned be about this “American” tendency but I did not heed his advice.  It was not until Karen and I returned, burnt out, unhappy, and unsmiling, that the wisdom of his words hit home.  I resolved to spend more time in only one country and never try to do the “grand tour” of the world again.  Since then, my vacations have been fun and each one of our trips has only gotten better.

huangshan-sunrise-1140-2Somedays when we are on vacation, we do not go anywhere.  We stay in a small apartment in some recently found village or town and cook meals, talk, and take walks around the area.  No great jaunts to see any “Seven Wonders of the World.”  Most of our trips are not cruises so we have few schedules.  We get up when we want to.  We go out when we want to.  We see what we want to, and we come back when we want to.  Often the sights that we see along the way are unscheduled and not in any travel guides.  We became friends with a Swiss couple at a soccer match we happened to stop and watch one night.  We traveled in China to a mountain where we spent the day climbing with a couple whom we met in China.  The next morning all of us watched the sun rise over the mountain tops.

flamingo-restaurant

In a little taverna in Naxos, we would sit every evening on the beach and eat fried squid, drink a local liquor, and watch the sunset.  We did this every evening for two weeks and never got bored.  Our one side trip to Santorini was a waste of a day.  We followed the advice that “EVERYONE” gave us when they said, “You must see Santorini!’  We spent two hours in a smelly boat getting there and it was one big tourist trap.  As for the beauty of the bay, it was undeniable, but we had the same and many more beautiful sights on our little island.

What are the obstacles to “smelling the roses?”   I would list the three major obstacles as follows:

  • Missing events in favor of things
  • Bragging rights
  • Time traps

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Missing events:

There are always many sights to see on any trip.  Many of these sights are famous and well worth seeing.  Many of them can also be very touristy.  However, you would not want to go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower or Louvre.  But there are also many events that are always happening in small and large towns.  Unfortunately, you cannot find most of these events on tourist guides because they are usually local events that may happen yearly or only occasionally.  I am thinking of the flea market at Portobello Road where Karen and I spend a day just wondering around looking at the things for sale.  I am also thinking of the Tokyo Fish Market when I got up at 5:30 AM to go see the hundreds of fish vendors and how they sell the widest assortment of fresh seafood that I have ever seen in my life.  I might forget the Louvre, but I will never forget the Tokyo Fish Market.

tokyo

Rule 1:  Take time to seek out events on a trip. 

Bragging rights:

So, who doesn’t want some bragging rights.  Yes, I saw the Tower of London and the crown jewels.  Yes, I saw the Sistine Chapel.  Yes, I saw the Acropolis.  But you know what, none of my friends or parthenon-facts-thumbnailrelatives cared.  There are things you are told that you must see.  Ask yourself why?  Then make a list of the things that YOU really want to see.  I went to a Baptist Revival Meeting once when I was in Birmingham, Alabama.  It was a three-hour old-fashioned tent revival meeting complete with an altar call.  Being a devout Atheist, I thought I would be lynched when the service was over.  Instead, many people came up to Karen and I and after some brief chit chat invited us to a large pot-luck dinner.  We declined but were touched at the hospitality and friendliness of the church goers.  I wondered if I was Black would I have received the same invitation?

Rule 2:  Do not let ego overrule your own idea of what would be fun and interesting.

Time traps:

  • I would love to join you, but I must be at such and such a place!
  • Sounds like fun, but I really do not have the time!

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I have heard so many excuses from retired people in respect to not having the time to do things that it simply boggles my mind.  People dream to be retired so that they can have the time to do what they would like to do but instead weigh themselves down with to-do lists and schedules that would cross a rabbi’s eyes.  Some people like Tevye thought it was a matter of having enough money.

“If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack to sit in the synagogue and pray

And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall

And I’d discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day

And that would be the sweetest thing of all.”  — Fiddler on the Roof

In truth friends, it is neither time nor money which we lack, it is usually the will.  If you are retired or on vacation or have a day off, you probably have a choice over what you must do.  However, if you are governed by a should list or a must list, you will be a slave to time and money.  We can only free ourselves from these constraints by a power of the will.  Making a choice in our lives over what is important.

I am not saying that we don’t have schedules and that time and money are not important.  But we all know people that seem to accomplish so much more than we do.  We scratch our heads at the abilities of these people.  But do we ever stop to think that they have no more time and often no more money than we do?

When I say that it is a matter of will, I am talking about thinking about our real priorities and acting on them for the long term.  That good friend that invited you over for dinner might not be around next year.  That invitation to go on a trip might not be possible in the future.  Karen and I once went on a fantastic seven-day cruise on a 182-foot-tall ship named the Sir Francis Drake.  Thirty crew and eighteen passengers with a draft that allowed us to sail in the shallowest bays all added up to a trip that we will never forget.  We put off many times going on another trip with this vessel.  Then one day we read that the Sir Francis Drake was moored in a Honduran harbor when a hurricane hit.  The next morning the ship was gone.  It had washed out to sea and sank.  The old saying “never put off till tomorrow what you can do today” instantly came to my mind.”

Rule 3:  Get your priorities straight.  Life is short

As always, I welcome your comments and would love to hear your trip or vacation advice.  What are your favorites trips?  What made them fun?  What would you do different?

Tracking the “Time” of Your Life

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Keeping track of time! Marking your days. Marking your weeks and months. Keeping a daily or monthly calendar. Keeping a diary. There are many ways we can keep track of our time. Some think it is a key to managing a successful life. Time flies when you are having too much fun but tracking time helps insure that we use our time wisely or does it? There are few things that are unambiguously good. Most of what we do has pros and cons or unintended consequences.  Is this true with tracking our time?

412BOkJrofL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_The concept of tracking time brings forth images of tracking some wild beast in the woods. Deer, moose, bear, cougars, tigers all leave very distinctive tracks. Time also leaves distinctive tracts. Time leaves physical as well as emotional tracks on all of us. Not to mention the tracks that time leaves on the environment. Emotional tracks are evident in the greater cautiousness and fears that we have as we age. From experience, once burned, we no longer want to get so close to the flame. Indeed, many of us will not even go near the fire again. Divorce, rejection, death, pain all leave emotional scars. For some of us they may never quite heal. Physical tracks show up as lines, creases, joint aches, hair thinning, broken bones and disease. I often joke that physically I am aging more like cheese then a fine wine. I am getting squishier and somewhat moldy around the edges.

downloadPerhaps you see the idea of “tracking time” through a different lens. Maybe you have a need to track your minutes and seconds each day, a twist on tracking your dollars and cents. Perhaps, if you watch your time carefully, you may have more of it. Mark down your time spent each day in an Excel spreadsheet and carefully log your corresponding activities. This last task seems somewhat obsessive to me even though I am often accused of being a Type A personality. I once worked at a job where I was required to check my work in fifteen minute intervals each day and log what I was doing during each interval. After I left this company, I decided I would never again work for anyone where I had to justify myself at this level of detail. It was simply an exercise in obsessive control and domination.

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Type A personalities are supposed to be more compulsive and more aggressive than Type B personalities. Are type A personalities more prone to track their time? Are Type B personalities more prone to go with the flow? Do Type B people live more moment to moment? Are you a Type A or Type B personality? Do you go with the flow or do you track your time? Regarding the physical and emotional tracks that time leaves, how have you fared? What emotional tracks has time left in your life? What physical tracks do you see time making for you? Where are you headed now?

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

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The Seven Social Sins is a list created by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in 1925.  He published this list in his weekly newspaper “Young India” on October 22, 1925.  Later he gave this same list to his grandson, Arun Gandhi on their final day together shortly before his assassination.  The Seven Sins are:

  1. Wealth without work.
  2. Pleasure without conscience.
  3. Knowledge without character.
  4. Commerce without morality.
  5. Science without humanity.
  6. Religion without sacrifice.
  7. Politics without principle.

I wrote a blog for each of Gandhi’s “sins” about ten years ago.  The blogs seemed to be quite popular with my readers.  I am going to update and repost each of the Seven Sins for the next few weeks.  Karen and I are making some major changes in our living arrangements and I probably will not find the time to write much new material.  I am reposting these because they still seem to be quite relevant in these challenging and chaotic times.

Wealth Without Work:  The First of Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins

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.

How to Find Meaning and Purpose in Life

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Two most important elements in any life are meaning and purpose.  Your soul, your spirit and your sense of well-being may depend more on these two elements than anything else you will ever find.  Money, fame, and success will mean nothing if you do not believe that you are living a life consistent with your purpose.  Nothing you buy or acquire will have any importance to you if you do not feel that your life has any meaning.

Many books have been written about the elements of meaning and purpose.  Two of the most famous are “The Purpose Driven Life” and “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

 “Being successful and fulfilling your life’s purpose are not at all the same thing; You can reach all your personal goals, become a raving success by the worlds standard and still miss your purpose in this life.”  — “The Purpose Driven Life” —  Rick Warren

“These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus, it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. ‘Life’ does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life’s tasks are also very real and concrete. They form man’s destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny” — “Man’s Search for Meaning” —  Viktor Frankl

Perhaps, you still do not know what the difference is between purpose and meaning.  Do not despair.  There are as many ideas about the meaning of these two elements as there are about life after death.  Everyone seems to have their own ideas about these qualities, but everyone agrees on one thing; they are essential for a life that is worthwhile.  I am going to give you my take on them.  What they mean and how to find them for yourself.

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What Is the Difference between Meaning and Purpose?

We live in a world of contrasts and dualities.  Up and down, back and forth, good and bad, happiness and sadness.  Perhaps these are only our own perspective that we cast onto the world but for better or worse we are stuck with them.  The Yin and Yang concept is very useful in thinking about the world.  For every Yin there is a Yang.

“The principal belief of the Yin Yang is reflected in the categorization of musical tones. The two main forms of Taoist music are the Yin Tone and the Yang Tone.  Yin stands for all things that are female and soft and Yang stands for all things male and hard.  Through the proper balance of Yin (female) and Yang (male) a Taoist can find harmony and simplicity in all things.” (Bowker, 2000) — Wikipedia

Esoteric_Taijitu-5c85cc7b46e0fb00014319cdMeaning and purpose are Yin and Yang to each other.  Purpose is outside you and is what you do in the world.  For me purpose involves doing.  Meaning is inside you and what you do for yourself.  Meaning involves being rather than doing.  Let’s use a running race as an example.

I am a runner.  I have been running since I was twenty-five years old. I have run dozens of races.  Some of them were long and some were very short.  Let’s say I run a race and do so half-heartedly.  By fate or circumstance, I come in first place.  My purpose was to run and win the race or at least my age division now that I am 75.  How I ran it is somewhat irrelevant to my purpose.  In this case, I won, and I get the medal or trophy.  I may not have done my best, but the world does not care.  It rewards winners and not losers.  What we do for the world is our purpose.  We may not do our best, but we may still win the award.

My purpose in life is to help bring different perspectives and insights to the world through my writings.  I want to challenge conventional ways of doing things and thinking about things.  That is my purpose in life.  Purpose for me is about doing and not about being.

Back to the race.  I can run the race and give it my best.  I may go all out and still come in tenth or even dead last.  If I  know I did my best, I will feel good about myself, even though my results will not receive any accolades or awards.  To me, this is meaning.

img_7909Meaning in my dictionary is about living up to my potential, my values and my beliefs by doing the best I can each day to be consistent with them.  No one may ever know if I am being kind, compassionate or patient today.  You cannot see the inner virtues that I want to live by.  I am the only person at the end of each day who can judge whether or not my life had any meaning today.  If I can be the best person that I want to be each day, I will die feeling that my life had meaning.  To the rest of the world, I may just be another old teacher, old veteran or old guy who lived an average life and died at an average age.  Meaning to me is about being and not doing.

Martin Luther King in his famous Eulogy Speech summed up the meaning of his life very well when he told the world how we wanted to be remembered:

“Yes, if you want to, say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice.  Say that I was a drum major for peace. I  was a drum major for righteousness.  And all of the other shallow things will not matter.

I won’t have any money to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that is all I want to say. If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a well song, if I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain.”

We should all write a eulogy for ourselves before we die.  This is to let the world know what we tried to be and tried to do.  The world will see what we did do.  You won’t have to tell the world what you did.  Purpose is written in accomplishments, but meaning is written in how people feel about you.  Purpose is pride and success while meaning is love and integrity.  In some respects, it is impossible to separate being from doing and meaning from purpose.  They flow together like melody and rhythm in a song. They can be separated but together they make life more beautiful.

See my blog:  “How about writing your eulogy today?”

How do I find my purpose in life?

Your purpose in life will depend on both your skills and your interests.  If you match the two you may find what your purpose in life is.  If you have skills in mathematics or science and you are interested in the medical field, you may devote your life to working as a doctor or medical researcher.  If you love music and have a skill for playing instruments, perhaps you will be a composer or music teacher or musician.  These skills will be the vehicles that you use to share your purpose with the world.

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The above diagram was developed to help people find what their purpose in life is.  It has four elements which overlap.

  • What do you love?
  • What are you good at?
  • What can you be paid for?
  • What does the world need?

Ask yourself these four questions.  If you can find a way to make the answers mesh, you will have found your purpose in life.  Over time, your interest and the world’s needs may change.  Finding purpose is not always a once and for all effort.  Some lucky people find a purpose which takes them all through life.  Many of us will have several purposes before we finish our journey through life.

How do I find my meaning in life?

There are hundreds of formulas and suggestions for how to find meaning in life.  The one thing I am certain of is that each of us must define our own meaning.  We define our meaning by deciding what we want to be in life.  Notice, I did not say what we want to do in life.  What makes this a difficult question to answer is that what we want to be is defined by how we go about being.  We must realize that being and doing are inseparable.  There is a Yin and Yang here.

Ask yourself, what do I want to be?

new1_10If I answer, I want to be rich,  my meaning in life will be defined by how I go about becoming rich and what I do with my money.  If I want to be a writer, my meaning will be defined by what I write and how I go about the writing process.  If  I want to be happy, my meaning in life will be defined by how I go about achieving happiness.  No one except me can judge how I define myself.  People may say that I am not very rich or that I am not a very good writer, but it is what I believe about myself which will define my meaning in life.  Vincent Van Gogh is now widely regarded as one of the greatest painters of all time.  His paintings sell for millions of dollars.  However, in his lifetime, he sold only one painting.  It was to his sister-in-law who felt sorry for him.

91QvVMwW4BL._AC_SY606_“What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart. That is my ambition, based less on resentment than on love in spite of everything, based more on a feeling of serenity than on passion. Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.”Quotes from The Letters of Vincent van Gogh, ©Excellence Reporter 2020 Vincent Van Gogh,

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I realize as I write this that some people will never care about the meaning or purpose of their lives.  Just as some people are goal oriented and others are not, meaning and purpose may be subjects that not all people desire or can even pursue.  Perhaps they are luxuries of a more educated or affluent existence.  Perhaps people born into abject poverty and hunger have more to worry about then the meaning and purpose of their lives.  Aldonza in the “Man of La Mancha” sang:

ALDONZA

Take the clouds from your eyes

and see me as I really am!

You have shown me the sky,

But what good is the sky

To a creature who’ll never

Do better than crawl?

9781780749327_27I conclude with the consideration that Meaning and Purpose may not be everyone’s cup of tea.  I confess that it was much later in my life and many hurdles had been taken and many obstacles overcome before I started caring about the meaning and purpose of life.  Now I look back and shake my head with some sorrow that I did not grasp their import on life when I was in my teens.  A have learned that a life without meaning and purpose is not a life, it is just living.

The Ten Commandments of Capitalism

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People don’t go to church anymore.  They go shopping.  Capitalism is America’s new religion.  A religion is a set of profound beliefs that one hopes will lead to a better life.  The Christian religion has its Ten Commandments which embody some of these beliefs.  No one actually practices these beliefs anymore but that does not stop devout Christians from insisting that their commandments should be enshrined throughout America.  The only problem with this is that these are not the beliefs that people follow today.

I was laying in bed the other night and thinking about how Capitalism has become the real religion of Americans.  I suddenly realized that there was no explicit set of rules, precepts, or commandments that the faithful should follow.  There are many implicit or implied rules.  The implicit rules of Capitalism are somewhat obvious even if they are not etched on two tablets.

I have decided to take these implicit commandments believed by most Americans and make them more obvious.  I recommend that these be put up in bronze or stone or cement in every capital throughout the USA.  Following are my Ten Commandments for Capitalism.

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  1. You can never have enough

As they say, “He who has the most toys wins.”  You can never have enough.  Life is about getting what you deserve.  When you do get it, then you need to get more.  More money, more cars, more jewelry, more land, more clothes, the more you have, the more people will admire you and declare you a success.  Success in America means having more than anyone else.

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  1. Bigger is always better

From hamburgers to houses to car and even people, things in America are getting bigger.  People now own 5,000 square foot homes with three car garages, six bedrooms and four baths even though they only have 1.7 children and a spouse.  Hamburgers at Burger King weigh about ½ lb. and car engines put out in excess of 500 hp.  Americans are the most obese people in the world.  Capitalism makes everything bigger and fatter.  Hooray for Capitalism.

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  1. Greed is good

Ivan Boesky said it and Americans gave him a standing ovation.  Michael Douglas in the movie “Wall Street” paraphrased Boesky’s speech and exhorted his stockholders:

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.  Greed is right, greed works.  Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.  Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.  And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”  

I could not have said it any better.  The greedier we get, the more we get.  The more we get, the more we want.  The more we want the greedier we get.  It is the American way.  From politicians to business people to lobbyists, to car salespeople to real estate developers, the stated norm is to “maximize profits.”  To hell with the tree huggers and climate change advocates.  Success is predicted on greed.  Greed is human nature.  Greed is not good, it is great.

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  1. Shop till you drop

My half-sister every year gets up at 3 AM on the morning of Black Friday with a map, a schedule of stores, coupons, and snacks.  Like a general, she plots out her strategy, enlists her friends and relatives and launches a preemptive invasion.  Her goal is to get it before anyone else.  “It” does not really matter.  The process is what counts.  Shopping is the sacrament of Capitalism.  You must take your pennies and dollars and put them in the store where you can get the most for your money.  Saving is for fools.  Shop, shop, shop.  Superbowl Sunday is a prime time for shopping since many Americans are glued to their TV sets soaking up ads on what to buy the next time they go shopping.  Go to fashion stores, go to thrift stores, go to malls, go to Walmart, go to flea markets, go to garage sales.  But for heavens sake, shop until you drop.

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  1. Stuff will make you happy

There is only one reason for all that shopping.  It fulfills you.  It puts meaning and purpose in your life.  Without meaning and purpose, life is shallow.  We are all born with a hole in us that must be filled up.  You could fill it with religion, education, or philosophy but you can’t touch these things.  You can touch a new air fryer and you can soak in a new hot tub.  You can call all your Facebook friends on your new I-Phone 98. Nothing is quite as satisfying as stuff at filling the hole in our hearts.  Nothing until the next generation of I-Phones or Air Fryers come out.  But of course, then you can go shopping for the newest and latest and greatest.  You will never be so happy as when you have more stuff than you need.

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  1. Prosperity builds character

Those who believe in the Prosperity Gospel say that the richer you are the better, smarter, and more deserving you are.  God rewards good people with money and bad people get lumps of coal in their stockings not just at Christmas but throughout most of the year.  God wants everyone to be rich.

Being rich is a choice.  Poor people don’t really like money, so they choose to be poor.  They do not want to be  bothered with having to carry tons of cash and credit cards.  Rich people don’t mind carrying all this cash because they have chauffeurs, butlers, and nannies to help with the work.  Many people say that “money is the root of all evil.”  This is a lie spread maliciously by the Internet to deter people from going after the gold.  Jesus said that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven.”  If Jesus was alive today, I think he might be preaching a different message.  Something like, “Forget what I said two thousand years ago, times have changed.  There are few camels left in life and you can always take a taxi if you have enough money.”

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  1. Don’t worry about tomorrow

There is a great song by Van Morrison which goes as follows:

Don’t worry about tomorrow

That ain’t gonna help you none

Don’t worry about tomorrow

That ain’t gonna help you none

You’ve gotta live and take each day as it comes.

A great deal of wisdom is centered around the idea of living one day at a time and not worrying about the future.  Too many people fail to live in the present because they are too worried about what will happen tomorrow.  Doris Day sang the famous song Que Sera Sera,

When I was just a little girl

I asked my mother, what will I be

Will I be pretty

Will I be rich

Here’s what she said to me

… Que sera, sera

Whatever will be, will be

The future’s not ours to see

Que sera, sera

What will be, will be

 Capitalism is a system that follows much the same line of reasoning.  Don’t worry about the climate.  Don’t worry about the weather.  Don’t worry about pollution.  Don’t worry about water.  Don’t worry about the environment.  Live for today.  Get whatever you can today.  You might not be alive tomorrow, so why worry?  Remember Alfred E. Neumann from Mad Magazine.  His motto was “What, me worry?”  We need to worry less.  Don’t worry about whether the world will still be there for your kids or grandchildren.  Let them worry about it.

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  1. Nothing is more important than money

If capitalism had a beating heart, instead of “thump, thump, thump,” it would go “money, money, money.”  Love may make the world go round, but money greases the wheels.  Remember the Beatles song “Money?”

Now give me money, (That’s what I want)

That’s what I want

(That’s what I want)

That’s what I want, (That’s what I want), oh, yeah

(That’s what I want)

Money don’t get everything, it’s true

What it don’t get, I can’t use

Now give me money, (That’s what I want)

That’s what I want.

 I propose that more people think about money than anything else in the world, including sex.  To test my theory, I typed in “Sex” on Google.  Then I typed in “Money.”  Following are my results:

Sex:  10,590,000,000         

Money:  11,920,000,000

Money received 1.33 billion more hits than sex.  This result shows what the real priorities of most people are.  First it is money, then it is sex.

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  1. Never let anyone get in your way

 Let’s be real.  Nice guys and good women finish last.  If you want to get ahead in business, you must be ruthless.  You must be cut throat.  You must play ethical roulette (a business version of Russian roulette).  Machiavelli and Sun Tzu were too soft.  Read the “Mafia’s Guide to Getting Ahead.”  You must have no morals or ethics or qualms about being the bad guy.  Never do anything illegal or at least get caught doing anything illegal.  There is plenty of room for amoral activities that skirt the line between legal and illegal.  If in doubt, call a lawyer.

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 10.  Put some money aside for a rainy day

By rainy day, I mean a time in your life when you no longer have any friends, loved ones or anyone who cares whether you live or die. You will be on your death bed waiting for Lucifer to take you to your just rewards.  Like Herod, the day will come when you must pay the piper.  It won’t matter how much you have in stocks or your bank account.

The devil won’t have a signed contract for your soul but he will not need it.  You will have bought and paid for your place in hell many times over.  Every dollar, every ruble, every peso, every euro, every yen you coveted will have helped you to earn your place in hell.  Your funeral marker on earth may say some nice things about you but down in hell, you will be one of many who sold their soul to the highest bidder.

Jesus wisely said “What doth it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffer the loss of his own soul?”  Profoundly put, but alas seldom followed.

After Thoughts:

When I came home recently from a vacation to Europe, I had 5,865 spam messages in my promotions email folder on Gmail.  That equals 217 junk emails per day.  Never before in history, has so much been marketed and sold to people under the assumption that the marketplace is a dispenser of happiness.  I have written a five-part series on the evils of Corporate Capitalism, and I have written many posts about the dangers facing our civilization today from the excess of greed and profiteering which infest and assail too many cultures and societies all over the world.

My spouse Karen felt that many of the things that I was saying in this blog were too harsh.  If you felt this way when you read my blog, consider that 162 golf course owners in Phoenix did not want to accept a recent recommendation for a 3.1 percent cut in water usage.  (Some Arizona golf courses are pushing back against the state’s plan to reduce water use)  They proposed a counter recommendation for a 1.6 percent cut.  This on the heels of an unprecedented drop in the water feeding much of the Southwest from Lake Mead and a record drought with significant increases in heat.  What have we come to when water for golf courses is more important than water for crops and drinking?

In Wisconsin, where I live during the summer, the residents have been fighting the siting of a CAFO for the feeding of 26,000 hogs.  The operators of the “Concentrated Animal Feed Operation” do not care about the water, trees, odors, property values, soil, bacteria, or any other repercussions for their operation.  They are only concerned about the ability to make a profit.

The local residents have been fighting this potential development for nearly three years now.  It is big money against the little farmer and little land owner who object to the spoilage of their land, water, and lifestyle.  The property owners in Barron, Burnette and Polk County Wisconsin are fighting not only corporate money and greed but also elected politicians.  Politicians at both the local level and state level, many who support the development of “free enterprise” regardless of the externalities caused by the business operation.

Everywhere I turn, I see greed, waste, and short-term thinking based on profitability guiding human decisions.  The sad part is that Corporate Capitalism has become a religion.  And whereas faith in the old religions has waned dramatically in the past fifty years, faith in Capitalism to save us from hell has only grown.  Like some sort of communicable disease, the belief that Capitalism will provide a heaven on earth has become almost indisputable among a large majority of Americans.  I think the time is long past for soft pedaling the dangers of Capitalism.  I only hope that it is not too late.

 

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 and death 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 and death 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.

young man looking at an older himself in the mirror

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.

Senior-couple

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.

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