Blogpost, self-reliance

Day Three of My New Life

With the season of New Year’s Resolutions descending upon us quickly, I thought it was time to give an alternative. “Day Three of My New Life” is actually the name of one of my favorite albums of all time. The band Knapsack released it while I was in college. Through my weekly radio show, I got introduced to the album and the band. None of this is why you clicked on this post, so I’ll move on but the album is worth a listen.

Knapsack – Day Three of My New Life

Several times I’ve dissected the title of the album for myself and attributed a thought process to it. For the moment at least, I’m going to say that the following is what I believe about change which is what resolutions promise. It’s unfortunate that the word resolution has gotten associated with so many failed enterprises by people over the years. The definition of a “firm decision to do or not do something” is a powerful alternative to the impotent leanings that most people have. So even though New Year’s Resolutions tend to be weak, the word is intended to be strong.

Day Three of My New Life plays perfectly into this thought process as it puts a line of demarkation between the past self and the present. Humans tend to lead with belief and therein lies the power of this thought process. Normal resolutions fail because it is the same old version of you, trying to do a new action. Unfortunately the life that you lead is resistant to change, especially when giving up something that is coveted. At this time of year, change is all the rage. So it is not truly a resolution but a form peer pressure that most fold under. It is crucial to birth a new version of yourself. So rather than the first, maybe it’s better to start on the number day of your birthday. That makes it personal. A part of your identity that you get to carry forward.

In addition to the decision there need to be reminders of the new you built into the day. You need to have arrows to the action that you recognize and utilize. Few of us have the willpower to overcome all of the obstacles in our way, so we need to be set up for success. Running shoes put next to the bed, reminders in the cellphone, post it notes on the refrigerator or the simple favor of having a friend as an accountability partner are all possible ways to point you in the right direction. No answer will be perfect but functionality is the key. Every day of your new life, you’ll need to put on the boxing gloves and fight the old habits off. It’s a balancing act to be sure but the shape of the fear that you feel is always your own shadow. The feeling that you are not enough to fill the new shoes that you’ve fashioned for yourself.

So as we move into the new year and new possibilities, choose the new life that you want to lead. If you want to stay true to form, that’s great! It means that you’re happy with this version of you. If not, then resolve to adopt this new life and go well past day three!

Happy New Year!


PS – My favorite song by Knapsack is “Arrows to the Action.” Even though Day Three… was the main topic here, This Conversation Is Ending, Starting Right Now is possibly a better album but it’s really close!


Better Mediocrity

mediocreMediocre means “ordinary, average, middle-of-the-road, unexceptional, lackluster and forgettable.”  In many ways, I would put myself in the category of mediocre.  I’m 5 foot 9 inches tall and weigh 190 pounds.  My bench press and squat numbers are nothing impressive.  I got a 1060 on my SATs (the old version).  My yearly income is nothing to “write home about”.  By most accounts, I am pretty mediocre.

The thought of mediocrity has been one that has entered my mind several times over the past year.  The realization of my own mediocrity was nothing new.  I have little chance to become exceptional in most areas.  Even for my age, the benchmarks of excellence are pretty high.  This divide creates a chasm that stagnates improvement.  With the possibility of excellence off the table, it is easy to see why so many people lose their drive.  However it is actually in this chasm that I believe we actually have the greatest of societal opportunities.  As a collective (Athletes, Americans, Humans), we can choose to strive for better mediocrity.

In the past, I have written about the “Bannister Effect” and how the breaking of new ground creates possibilities for others to follow.  That is a concept that I still endorse wholeheartedly.  However as I thought about my own mediocrity, I came to realize that we need a “second wave”.  There must be another push from the middle.  The outliers pulling forward will only have an effect on those that are close to their level.  For example, the 10s only pull the 9s forward but the effect is almost unnoticeable by the time that it reaches the critical mass in the middle.

This second wave needs to be created as an individual and a  collective undertaking.  The mediocre individual competes for the most part with himself.  Improving with a partially selfish desire to take a step up one rung on the ladder.  Despite this selfish motivation, the individual also recognizes his membership of a collective (Athletes, Americans, Humans).  The “mediocre Americans” are getting better.  The middle of the road changes from 5 to 7 and there is a pride in self and the collective.

Better mediocrity would change so many things about our lives and expectations.  Perhaps mediocre would no longer be a slight insult but rather an identifiable force pushing the forerunners to greater excellence.  If you happen to be mediocre, choose to be better mediocre!



The Downward Spiral

LadyLibertyWhen I was young, my Boy Scout troop took a trip to the Statue of Liberty.  I’m not sure who talked me into it but a group of us decided to go up to the crown.  If you’ve never been there, in order to get up to the crown, you need to take a long spiral staircase.  I’ve looked at pictures of the present day stairs and they seem to have improved them.  However when I visited, the stairs looked very old and you could see through the steps into “guts” of Lady Liberty.  About every fifty feet or so there was a little platform, which I guess was intended for tired people to rest on.  For someone who is afraid of heights like me, the climb was bad enough but stopping on that platform was out of the question.

As I was climbing those steps on that day, a thought occurred to me about the worst-case scenario.  What if someone fell backwards as you were climbing?  We were packed like sardines in this stairwell, if one went we all would go.  I felt myself getting slightly dizzy and nauseated.  The only thing that made the upward spiral bearable was the fact that I was facing and leaning forward.  If I did fall, I would end up face down on the steps but I’d be ok.  By the time I finally reached the crown, I only took a cursory glance at the view.  As I turned the corner, the realization of my prior fear was fully in front of me.  The downward spiral had all of the possibility of falling but now I was facing and leaning in that direction.  For my younger self, it was nerve-wracking and scary.  I hated every moment of that descent.  So much so that I’m surprised that I don’t remember who talked me into going because it was exactly “THAT BAD”.

Downward spirals are scary and nerve-wracking in life as well.  Everything seems normal at first but then something puts you just a little off from your climb upward.  Then another thing hits you and another, until you are turned around and no longer looking forward toward your goal but backward toward the fall.  The staircase is not wavering; it is you.  You have taken these little setbacks to mean that you are going to fall.  This is not the time to start flailing or grabbing onto people to bring down with you.  It is time to take a moment and get some perspective.  Breathe!!!

You are not helpless.

  • Decide if the crown is worth it. I would have gladly gotten off of that staircase had that been an option.
  • If the crown is worth it, then refocus on the crown and take the next forward step.
  • Your fear of the fall can be your enemy or your ally. If it causes you to focus on the process and take steps carefully, it is your ally. If it causes you to be nervous and freeze up, then it’s your enemy. Make fear your ally.
  • Fall forward! If you’re going to fall (fail), make sure that you gain some ground with that fall. You learn something; pick up new information or even just figure out what doesn’t work.

I wish you all the best on your upward spirals!