Idols are supposed to be held in high esteem, the very personification of the things that we want to be. It hit me like a lightning bolt this morning that Mr. Magoo is truly an American idol for so many people. For those youngsters out there, Mr. Magoo was a cartoon character whose poor eyesight routinely got him into precarious situations but he always escapes unscathed and sometimes falls into good fortune. Feel free to watch one Mr. Magoo cartoon on YouTube. Once you’ve seen one, you’ve basically seen them all (minus little details). The overarching idea behind Mr. Magoo is that his problem would be easily fixed if he were just to put on his glasses but he wants to deny his problem rather than face it.
Although it isn’t pretty, this seems to be a scarily accurate description of how many of us live our lives. We recognize our problem but are too damn stubborn, lazy or indifferent to do anything about it. Seemingly our greatest hope is that we can meander through life blind to our inadequacies and not have them bite us in the ass. While this makes for a mildly amusing cartoon, it is a disastrous strategy for living a life of fulfillment and progress.
Rather than turning a blind eye to your inadequacies, stare at them with crystal clear vision, even put them under a microscope if need be. Decide what you truly want: to feel good in the moment or feel good long term. If you want the Magoo life, then by all means turn the blind eye. BUT if you want more from your life, then you and you alone will need to make the decision to systematically work on your areas of weakness until they can no longer hurt you. Maybe it’s something as simple as putting on glasses but perhaps it will take years or even decades to overcome. Regardless, it’s up to you to Magoo or not.
It wasn’t a 100% binary equation. Gladiators could win, lose or “tie”. Not even all of the defeated were condemned to death. Despite these extenuating circumstances, one thing is most definitely certain, bad gladiators died. I have no desire to bring back gladiatorial games or anything of the sort but in some ways our pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.
In modern society the crowd would seemingly want every gladiator to feel like a winner. Swords would be made of foam rubber but helmets would still be worn just in case. Gladiators would be paired by skill level and the most likely death would come from boredom of the truly talented gladiators. While I am not a fan of truly “zero sum games”, there have to be stakes. Gladiators got good because they had to. Everyone knew that bad gladiators die, the gladiators knew this best.
By all accounts we do not live in a gladiatorial society nor would I truly want to. A bloodthirsty mob looking to revel in the pain of the vanquished is not where we need to go. However a world without stakes has no incentive to move forward. The same holds for an individual. What is at stake for you today? Have you set yourself up in a game where you can win, lose or tie? Or is nothing at stake today? Are you armed with your foam rubber sword hacking away at the same meaningless opponent that you fought yesterday? Bad gladiators of the past got to die quickly. Bad gladiators today die slowly while trying to reassure themselves that they would be lethal if not for this foam rubber. The price of finding out if you’re good or not is to risk the possibility of dying on the metaphorical sword. That might be embarrassment, finances, time or many other things but something needs to be at stake. So step into the arena, put something on the line and see what you’re made of!
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena!
It is not an uncommon thing at all to wish for a future that is yet to come or a past that is long gone. Humans have the blessing and the curse to be able to mentally exist in the past and future while ignoring the present. It is a blessing because it allows us the freedom to live in the most useful plane. The curse is the propensity to relive or project the worst of experiences or possibilities. At all times, the mind has the capability of transporting the self elsewhere. With this ultimate power to determine much of our existence, surprisingly most people defer control to the moment or to their “monkey mind”. Imagine if you will driving a car with no steering wheel. The gas and the brake are great tools but without the ability to steer, one is at the mercy of the terrain and the tires.
So the key to moving forward in a direction of your own desire means developing a steering mechanism. How long would you drive that car without a steering wheel? Not long at all before you or someone else added that key component. The key to your mental steering comes down to practice. Pulling your mind in the direction of your choosing on a regular basis. When it wanders, you must take control again. Under no circumstances is this easy. It’s easy to be swayed by right now. It’s easy to run the patterns that you’ve been running for years or decades. Those are the paths of least resistance but I assure you that they will not get you to your destination in a timely or comfortable manner.
So take this moment to decide. Decide who you are now and who you want to be in the future (you can’t fix the past but you can change its meaning). Once you have those in mind, start with a half hour each day where you think and act only in line with that vision. If you mind wanders, bring it back! As you get better and better at completing that half hour, it will begin to dump over into the other hours of the day. Eventually the you from the vision and your reality will be one in the same. The only question for now is, are you willing to take control?
I’m fully willing to admit that I’m a relatively passive driver. It’s almost to a fault. Most of the driving routes that I take for local trips are based on their lack of difficult left turns. It’s not that I’m incapable of making the turns nor do I lack the patience to wait for openings. My overarching thought process is that I don’t engage with unknown chaos if I don’t need to. Overall I’m happy with the strategy. However recently I’ve been forcing myself to do more left turn heavy routes. Just to demonstrate to myself that my passivity is a strategy that I want and not character flaw born out of fear.
In many areas of our lives, we tend to become accustomed to things. There is almost an autopilot type of function that we employ to the regular and presupposed. This is not a problem until it is. Often the need for comfort keeps us anchored to the known. Most of the time the known is a positive but eventually you may end up driving in circles. “Big Ben, Parliament!”
People have an ingrained need to feel safe and comfortable. Unfortunately those emotions do not usually help you move forward in the most direct route. The road to your ideal life is not lined with rose petals, rainbows and unicorns. It is going to require grit, determination, unwavering faith in that unseen and YES! Hard left turns through major traffic! This realization is necessary to reach new destinations. If you’re happy going where you’ve always gone with path of least resistance, then by all means keep going that way. If not, then it’s time to recognize the power of the left turn and accept that they are going to be integral to you reaching your destination.
For my international reader who may drive on the left hand side of the road, just reverse all that I just said! :p
Go get there!