It can be so frustrating for people! Falling short. I was raised Catholic and it was always the thing that bothered me about the prayer for the forgiveness of your sins. I had to repent for the things that I had done and the things that I had left undone. The situation was daunting because there were so many things that I had left undone. It seemed as though I would never be able to do all of the things. The truth is that I never will. There will always be more that I could have done, should have done, would have done. However time is finite and therefore I am bound to “come up short!”
Since it is unavoidable, it is not something to stress over but rather manage. Much like gravity, you can’t avoid it but anticipation of it creates opportunity. The question isn’t whether you’re going to come up short or not. YOU WILL! It’s an inevitability that on some level, a thing or an entire gaggle of things are going to be left undone. So do not concern yourself with coming up short! It’s going to happen. The concern needs to be how far you aim.
There are an infinite number of aims. Some of them will never be your target. I will never play in the NBA. It’s not my aim! Therefore, I will fall completely short on that. That should not matter. If I’m not aiming there, no matter how short I fall, it doesn’t count. However, when I’ve decided that something matters, it’s important to aim far. Break it up into pieces if you like. Make it a ten year aim. Pick something with an extremely slim chance of success. But don’t be afraid to come up short! More dreams are stillborn than die from catastrophe. So breath some life into that thing that you want because without you, it’s definitely going to come up short!
That’s not a shot against you. In the way that I’m going to characterize it, no one can win! Winning just isn’t a thing that people can do. It’s a byproduct! A result from other actions that lead to it being produced. Just like so many other things that people desire, it is not the thing to be done. Fitness, wealth, health, etc. are not actions that can be done. They are byproducts that come from a variety of other actions. Often the things that lead to these byproducts are difficult and require consistent focused effort over time. And usually the actions taken along the way aren’t inherently fun.
That’s the conundrum and the battle that we’re truly fighting. Can we put in enough effort to the difficult, mundane, hard work in order to get the result that is outside of our control? It’s so easy to just want the destination to arrive at our doorstep without putting in the hard miles. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way! We rarely get to choose the terms on anything of meaning. Sure, there are small prizes available for low prices. But those things of real value cannot be bought cheaply! Yet we want to believe that six pack abs are 7 minutes away and that lottery ticket is going to be the big difference. More than likely, those shortcuts lead nowhere but they’re enticing because all we want is the win. What if there was another way?
What if you could learn to love the work? The struggle. The time spent on the road to wherever it is that you’re going. Unlike winning, love is an action we can do and I believe it is central to a life of fulfillment. What if you could learn to love the process? And when the win showed up you kept going because that was no longer the point. The people, the time, the scenery, the smells, the characteristics of the person you’ve become. What if those were the point?
I hope you find what you’re looking for. But more importantly, I hope you also learn to enjoy the search!
It’s a scary thought if you consider it for a moment. Any of the forces of nature breaking loose from their predictable norms. Sure there is a bit of chaos in our lives at the moment. However if gravity wasn’t a constant or the sun didn’t rise, life would be exponentially more difficult. The consistencies that we experience in life, often hold us together. Their predictability is a comfort that brings understanding to our lives. However, sometimes comfort is a trap that keeps us from higher heights that could be reached.
Obviously I’m not a fan of getting rid of gravity literally. It is an extremely useful force. There are other forces in our lives that hold us down without reason or for poor reasons. Many of these are based on the choices that we make: relationships, habits, mindsets, prejudices, etc. While we do not get a choice about gravity until we’ve left the atmosphere, we can release many of these downward pulling forces. Sometimes all it takes is simple recognition. However that chaos mentioned earlier can cloud our vision from seeing the forces that need removal.
Perhaps today is the day to take stock. How many forces that are holding you in your present station are useful or by your design? Can any be released? This is a personal decision that needs consideration. For me, there is a fear that I’ve had around a certain situation and it’s probably time to let it go. It’s held onto me because I’ve held onto it. Maybe I’ll be like Charlie and his grandfather floating up to a fan that would cut them to shreds. Or maybe I’ll reap all the rewards of flight. Regardless, I’ll never know until I let go.
It’s an easily by-passed scene in the movie “Billy Madison.” After making his way through a second chance at elementary and middle school, Billy finally gets the opportunity to return to high school. In a matter of seconds, he sees that the things that used to carry weight don’t anymore. His REO Speedwagon T-shirt and Pontiac Firebird are not only worthless, they’re mock-worthy. When we think of currency, money is the first thing that jumps to mind. However there are so many other currencies and just like dollars, their value changes or ceases to exist. What are we supposed to do when the currencies that we hold so dear leave us bankrupt? It’s probably going to happen a lot soon!
So let’s consider a currency that loses it’s value almost instantaneously after it was SO important for 12-20 years: grades. Eventually, they become worthless. Especially when broken down into the smallest component pieces. No one cares about the vocabulary quiz that you took in middle school. However, they do care whether you speak intelligently or at least intelligibly. The value of the moment is put on the grade but it is truly the knowledge that has potential power but even it must be put into use. Like a seed that never finds the soil, it can also lay dormant and inert. So in this time of rapid change, disruption and uncertainty; how does one know where to invest their time and effort? If so many of our classic currencies are under scrutiny or attack, then what has value?
There is no way that I can answer that for everyone but the elemental, universal and transferable feel right. Going back to the world of money, gold tends to be valued everywhere. It may not be the best thing to own but it is elemental, universal and transferable. For each of us, we must do the introspection into our own assets. Perhaps that degree is not worth what it used to be but calligraphy skills that you possess are. Money is nothing more than a promissory note. Lots of the old promises are being broken by a wave of innovation. There is most likely no way to out compute a computer but for now, it is still possible to out human a computer. You have value saved up in the bones and brains that carry you through this world. Use them! Possibly in new ways that you never anticipated. Your money’s no good here but we’ll gladly take the seeds of greatness that you have in your back pocket.
The standard track is 400 meters. A good time for a high school runner to complete one lap is a minute or less. If a runner can keep that pace for two laps, a two minute 800 meter is pretty impressive. Four laps at that pace is worth national recognition. A marathon at that pace would smash the world record! It’s not truly about the pace. Anyone can do it for 10 meters. It’s the consistency!
We’re all capable of great things. That is for sure! The question is how long can we maintain it? In order to keep that pace for 10 laps, first you must do one. Therein lies the problem with most of us. We want the end result without the work of the preparation. Showing up when no one is watching and enduring the pain of holding out, longer and longer. It’s not for everyone especially when it comes to running. However it applies to so many things in our lives. We can intentionally show up consistently in this area or that. Do it enough times and you could be the best in the world.
At bare minimum, you can be the best in the world at being you. Consistently and intentionally show up as the best version of you. Have the recipe memorized! Have the ingredients at the ready! And turn up the heat/energy on you! The people who love that recipe will keep coming back for it if it’s consistent. Every day you have the opportunity to amaze.
The easiest things are often the wrong things. OH! How I wish this was not the truth! I’d love it if chocolate ice cream made you thinner and sitting on the couch was the key to physical fitness. Unfortunately, neither is true and so many other easy answers come up empty. While the list of easy answers is long, I only want to focus on two: giving up and hatred. Although they have a ton of company as easy answers, they may be the most problematic.
Giving up is easy because it truly is a lack of action. Doing nothing is far easier than doing something. Therefore, giving up is the ultimate in easy answers to any situation. As soon as a task becomes too difficult (or even before that point), giving up is bound to be easier than continuing. That is exactly why it is such a problem. Giving up takes no effort but it is also bound to lead to no results either. The reason that I point it out now is the pervasiveness with which I see it show up in the world. People don’t just give up, they come up with the stories and statistics to make themselves feel better possibly even justified in giving up. I get it! No one wants to feel badly, especially about themselves. However, discerning when to give up and when to “stick it out” is a muscle that needs to be developed. If the default answer is just to give up, then the “stick it out” muscle never gets developed and every endeavor of value becomes a loss.
The other easy thing is hatred. Yet again, it takes almost no effort. Hatred is a strong emotion that can drain energy but it takes no real thought or discernment. In recent years, people seem to have gotten more adept at it. Any person or group that does not align with my personal leanings and beliefs, it’s just easier to hate than understand. Curiosity and understanding take mental effort. They are not easy and require a “letting go” of your own point of view for a moment. It’s so much easier to hang onto that viewpoint and add disdain for anyone who disagrees.
The problem with both of these easy things is that neither make the world a better place when they become the status quo. Are there times to give up? Absolutely! Hatred is not an emotion that I allow myself to get to easily (if ever) but I can understand times where it feels appropriate. So the name of the game is deciding on a personal level when to use each. Hopefully we’re not too far gone with either of these. Both seem to have cultural momentum behind them and only through individual decisions can the tide be changed. We are all pieces of a larger whole. No one person can make a societal shift. However, many individual people doing the harder thing can influence change because a good example is something we can follow.
Although they can be seductive, the easiest things are not always the best things. Progress requires effort, doubt can only be removed by action and love is a far better feeling to wrap yourself in than hate. So use your best judgment! You’ve got it within you to do some harder things. Anyone that you respect or hold in high esteem has and wouldn’t you like to feel that way about you too! Self-respect and self-esteem don’t come for free! They’re not easy!
When I was a kid, I collected baseball cards. It was not a long lasting endeavor but while I was doing it, it took up a lot of my time. Since it was the pre-internet days, the value of a card wasn’t determined on Ebay. There was a magazine that came out regularly to tell you the value of the cards that you owned. Despite the “agreed upon” value of a card, there were also personal reasons to want a card: your favorite player, a set of your favorite team, etc. My most prized card was a George Foster card from when he played with the Cincinnati Reds. It wasn’t the most expensive card in the world or the most expensive that I owned. It was the most important one to me though. I bought it as an individual card because I knew that I wanted it. Most of the cards that I had were acquired in packs. It was the luck of the draw. Eventually the collection became less of a priority and collected dust in my parent’s house. I’m not sure when it was sold off but I still own all of my George Foster cards.
The description above may be recognizable to many people. The search for value in a particular area of interest. Some people enjoy the search. Others enjoy the find. The value of the items being searched through is completely subjective regardless of price tag. In the past year, I’ve felt the need to foray into a world that I didn’t expect to be in.
The world of online dating reminds me of my baseball card days but in an unsettling way. The searching part is semi-similar with the pictures, “statistics” and bios. There is a perceived value from the searcher that is based on personal preferences. The area that is most disconcerting to me is the people on the other end of this search and selection process. If I chose to put my Phil Niekro cards in the bottom of my hamster’s cage, Phil didn’t know about it nor was he upset. It’s not him, just his card. My lack of interest in his card doesn’t take anything away from him personally. However, the people on the opposite end of this search and selection process are impacted. Sometimes directly and others indirectly. Regardless, they are still people.
Most recently I’ve stared to feel like a baseball card. It’s not all of the time, just in certain instances. The baseball card feeling comes when I’ve matched with someone and then……. nothing! No communication. Just sitting there. It’s happened more than I’d like to admit. I’d like to call it ghosting but I believe that’s when communication from one side just stops. This is a strange message to send. “I like your profile enough to match but not to talk.” It seems like a bit of a waste and also discounts the person on the other end. Now I’m far from perfect. I have ghosted a few people in the past year but overall, I try to end the conversation with something. A recognition that there is a person on the other end of this equation and I know it.
As so many of our first interactions with people tend to be online, it’s easy forget people exist. Fully formed human beings who have all of the same needs for oxygen, water, food, shelter, love, etc. They are on the other end of that screen. Maybe they are not the person for you. That’s ok! Swipe left or hit the X button. There’s no shame in that. Mistakes happen too! “Whoops, I hit the ‘Super Swipe’ button with my really big thumbs!” It’s not a problem either. My standard message to end a conversation talks about it not “gaining traction” and that’s fine as well. Perhaps I’m too much of an empath and worry about those people who get effect by these things. With all of the stresses of our world, the ambiguity of not knowing where you stand seems unnecessary.
I don’t want to be a baseball card, an item to be collected but not engaged with. A lack of interest is easy to take but the uncertainty wreaks of a forgetfulness. Forgetting that we’re all humans and deserve a little better. Sure the dating world is not for the faint of heart but it also doesn’t need to be for the reckless and uncaring. We’re all in the same boat and could stand to do a little better for each other.
So many things in our lives come down to balance. Although we need water to live, too much can be problematic with either straight up drowning or other issues. Everything has its correct dose. More isn’t always better. And the positive ingredient can become poisonous when it is allowed to dominate the mixture.
With humans, it’s often a difficult equation to balance. The number of varied components in the human animal make us an almost impossible equation to balance. Despite that fact we must try, tweak and attempt to find a balance, it’s not coming easily. Often it’s degrees of imbalance that we feel rather than anything resembling balance. Since the right answer isn’t coming easily, maybe we just need to recognize when we’ve got it majorly wrong!
I’m speaking metaphorically, so hopefully I won’t upset anyone but I think we need to be punched in the face more! The PF and PB ratio is the comparison of how many times someone is “punched in the face” rather than “patted on the back” by life! The ratio isn’t particularly intended to be in balance. In fact most of the time; it won’t be. However, the equation seems to have gotten way out of balance. People have take so many sharp edges off of life and it seems as though no one expects to be “punched in the face” metaphorically by life anymore. People are looking to be celebrated for their minuscule contributions. It’s not that they never should be, it’s a balance!
So! What if we started to embrace the fact again that PFs are coming our way and that’s alright. They’re not the only thing that is on the horizon! However they are a necessary part of the equation so that we can eventually get more PBs. The problem is that PBs don’t come for free. Yet somehow people think they should. PFs aren’t the only way to “earn” PBs but they often correlate.
So if you’re getting “punched in the face” by life, do your best to make it through the onslaught with your head held high. The pats on the back are coming at some point. They just don’t come exactly when we want them!
It doesn’t compute at first for most people! In fact it is sometimes denied forcefully. People have gotten very comfortable with the idea that fear is a negative. Something to be avoided at all cost. While I’ll grant anyone the fact that fear doesn’t feel good, it’s not a 100% negative emotion. It’s actually one of our most important compasses. We’d truly be nothing without it and if used intelligently, its benefits are limitless.
So just think where we’d be today if it wasn’t for fear? Extinct! Our ancestors would have been petting sabertooth tigers left and right until the human race was gone. I’m sure most people would grant me that one. It’s a device to avoid pain or death. Slightly positive, sure! But it definitely doesn’t feel good in the moment. No doubt! A pit in your stomach, sweaty palms, increased heart rate… if you take away the negative connotation, it sound almost exactly like or at least the next door neighbor of EXCITEMENT! The difference is that fear carries disposition toward a negative outcome. What if you were able to change that slightly to a recognition? See the possible negative outcome but put it off to the side a bit and make room for the positive as well. After all, fear is just a signal that you care and there are stakes. We’ve taken too many of the edges off of life. “Our deepest fears are like dragons, guarding our deepest treasures.” -Rilke. Fear is a barrier that we must get through in order to realize our desires. If the thing that you’re chasing doesn’t carry some fear with it, aren’t you playing it safe then?
Perhaps I’ve convinced you! Perhaps not! But fear isn’t going anywhere! It is here to stay. The question becomes: what will be your relationship with it? Will you run from it? Hide from it? Or dance with it? Hear the signal that it’s giving you! This thing on the other side of fear, means something to you. If it’s a sabertooth tiger, by all means, RUN LIKE HELL! If it’s a job opportunity, a beautiful woman, handsome man, a goal, or whatever else; consider leaning into the fear because it’s a positive emotion!
The only thing we have to fear is not fear itself but inaction due to fear. That’s where real tragedy comes!
The periodic table is organized in such a way that similar acting elements are grouped together. The Noble gases are put together because of their structure and common reluctance to react. More reactive elements are also grouped together to bring order to the basic components that make up this world. Scientists can put elements together, be confident about what will happen and the final result. Humans are far less predictable!
While we can be characterized in a variety of ways, it is almost impossible to predict how we will react in any given combination with others. Personality tests, ancestral background, love languages, communication styles and so many more components can be studied and quantified. Yet there is no certainty about anything that will result from human interaction. From my own life, I’ve had horrible relations with people who “on paper” should be my best friend. Then at the other end of the spectrum, I’ve felt closest to people who were vastly different, almost my antithesis. So, how do we exist in a world that is filled with such unpredictable creatures?
We pay attention, learn, try to understand and repeat. None of us is perfect! We’re bound to mess up from time to time. Even the most consistent people are going to have an off day. They are going to fuck up! We’re all flawed! Yet those flaws are often what make us beautiful. It proves that we are human. I’m sure that robots and angels exist with a consistency that we all think that we aspire to have. Yet I truly believe that the human element is crucial to a meaningful life. It’s where love and loss coalesce into equally important life experiences because they are not programmed. They’re human! Maybe it would be easier if there was an algorithm that put us together with the people that were best suited for us (eHarmony claims to have it). Yet there is something about this imperfect chemistry experiment that makes it feel worthwhile.