No one can predict at the beginning with absolute certainty when their playing career will be over. It is not until we get close to the end that we tend to think of the end. At that point thoughts are of the past. Triumphs, failures, hopes and regrets are all untouchable pictures in our minds.
No matter what we do in the present, we can’t get the past back and our future is seemingly short. We try to get every last bit of juice out of it. Practices are another chance to play. “Meaningless” games now have meaning because there aren’t too many left. The perspective of the aging player gives very real value to a commodity that is scarce, time. The problem is that we don’t realize how scarce it is until it is almost gone.
As you make your way through your playing career and your life, remember that the clock is ticking. You don’t know when it will be over, so take advantage of each moment. The only opportunities that you have are right now.
Michael Landon put it best- “Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”
Man has created several “boxes” to travel in. They have been created to make certain types of travel quicker and safer. The most literal box is the elevator. It makes travel between floors of a building faster. In the beginning there was danger of cables breaking or other malfunctions but elevators have become ever faster and safer over the years. We have several other boxes, which gain in speed and safety as we pass through time: the car, the train, the airplane and the list goes on. Traveling in boxes has become a way of life for most people. We depend upon them heavily.
As we progress further into the modern world, we seem to desire for all things to be safe and efficient. We sanitize everything to protect us from unseen germs. Our laws call for the use of helmets, belts and harnesses. Parents do their best to keep their kids from all kinds of harm by watching their every move. Some schools don’t give an F as a grade because it might hurt a child’s self esteem. It is almost as if people want a bubble to protect them from any kind of danger.
The problem with bubble living is that it takes away our humanity. All things worth having involve some form of risk. I’m not a thrill seeker by any stretch of the imagination. So I’m not talking about life and death risk but rather the risk of failure, discomfort or embarrassment. It is only when we take those chances that we are truly alive. Trees were not created with elevators because you need to chance the fall in order make the climb. Only in the climbing do we find out what we are truly capable of. Look for the people who stretch beyond comfort and safety, you will find the people that you admire most. Look for the people who live inside “the bubble” of safety, decide if they are the model for what you want for your life.
One of the things that I enjoyed most about the run up to the Rocky Steps was seeing the other people along the route to and from the steps. I felt a slight kinship to these strangers. As we passed each other, some nodded or said hello while others ignored my existence. They were all doing the same thing that I was and it was inspiring to share the path with them even though we were on our own separate journey.
The nods and recognition were nice but I don’t think I really needed them. The main thing for me was seeing the other people on the path. It reminded me of my own struggle and that my journey had purpose. I was not a lone fool out in the cold running to a landmark. I was part of something a little bigger. Not a fraternity of dreamers but a fraternity of doers. We were all working separately but knowing they were out there made me feel that much better about my struggle.
You’re never alone in your struggles. Even if you can’t see the other people on the same path as you, they are out there. Take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. The human race is one that we run together. It may seem like we are in competition but the other people on the path are not your enemy. They are your reminder that you’re not alone and you need to keep going.
Given the choice, would you rather be in a train wreck or a car wreck? I’ve asked some friends and acquaintances this very question and the results are pretty mixed with regards to these two choices but invariably someone will say, “I don’t want to do either.” In my estimation, that is the smartest answer. Choosing not to live through trauma and pain is a smart and easy decision when we think of the physical. There is no way to truly compare train wrecks and car wrecks but in general terms, train wrecks are public and involve a large number of people. Car wrecks are usually less public and involve fewer people.
In our reality TV world, there are multiple examples of human “train wrecks”. We seem almost obsessed with finding the people that are as close to the bottom of the barrel of humanity as possible. It is a disturbing reality that the public at large desires to see other people who are “worse” than they are. Depending on your particular preference, you can watch the unfortunate life of teenage mothers, millionaires’ wives, possible youth beauty queens, youth cheerleaders and the list goes on and on. At the end of that half hour, it is easy to feel vastly superior to that person’s “train wreck” of a life.
The problem is that often the people watching have a life that is a “car wreck” but through comparison feel pretty good now. Their life is not as bad or as public as the “train wreck”. So rather than striving to live the best life possible, we seem to insist upon finding the examples of those who are worse off than us. The comparison model does us little good, especially when the subjects of the comparison set the bar so low.
This does not just relate to the TV world but the classroom. Have you ever felt badly about the grade that you got on a quiz or test until you looked at your neighbor’s paper to see a lower grade? Rather than measuring yourself against what is possible, you measure yourself against what makes you feel better about your current situation. It’s a foolish strategy to employ because it lulls you into being comfortable with less than who you truly are.
So if your life is a wreck, don’t look for someone with a worse life. Pick up the pieces, heal your wounds and get back on the road.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art and its steps are iconic but not completely for the art inside the building. The steps are known to Philadelphia visitors as “The Rocky Steps.” Many runners follow in the footsteps of Sylvester Stallone’s underdog character every day. During my recent visit to Philadelphia, I ran from my hotel to the Rocky Steps in order to climb them and take the iconic victory pose. It’s a beautiful run with a long distance view of your destination.
Although the steps are a victory, they are not THE victory. They are really more of a milestone. The steps and the pose are a place to forecast the future. Rocky did not win the title at the top of those steps. However from that higher plain, he was able to see himself victorious for a moment despite his very long odds. It is something we all need at times. The moment of clarity that allows us to see ourselves at our absolute best possible moment. In your daily life it is easy to get swept up in all of the reasons why you can’t achieve something. You’re too lazy, too slow, too dumb, too poor, too ugly… The Rocky Steps can be a place to rise above all of that because it is a place where underdogs can feel hopeful.
Based on what I saw, dozens of people climb those steps every day. They are looking for that same small victory, to forecast their future success. But they don’t need the steps; they need the vision. The steps are just a nice background for the moment. You can get that clarity right now, wherever you are. You don’t need to go to Philadelphia and run the steps to get that vision. It’s somewhere within you now.