The last few months I’ve turned around and tried to take a look at myself, using a lot of simple methods. These are things anyone can do and I would encourage you to try. Not in a “Follow me! I’m RIGHT!” kind of way. Just, because, a life unexamined, something, something, something profound. The methods include: daily reading, daily writing, daily lists of ideas, daily exercise, a Seinfeld calendar, reduction in alcohol consumption, and (for me the most difficult part) trying to connect more with the people in your life who matter while deleting the haters.
The Seinfeld Calendar is a list of about four or five things you need to do everyday to become a successful stand up comic. You don’t need to become a success overnight. But, by getting the items done that will lead to your success, you should find that this focuses your attention on becoming a successful stand up comedian. I don’t want to become a stand up comic, but the principal applies to any endeavor. If you want to go to the South Pole, there are a set of skills and equipment and experience that will lead you to the South Pole. Four hours a day of Oprah, Dr. Phil, and NBA basketball are probably not on that list. See how it works? By focusing on the necessary I’ve been able to eliminate some of the extraneous activities that were – honestly – wasting my time.
Wasting time is worse than wasting money. I have no chance of winning a lottery that will immediately make me 15 years old again. And, wasting time is a purely subjective judgement that only a mature adult should be allowed to make for them self. If you want to live a comfortable life concerned about Dr. Phil, MLB, and the Today Show, then who am I to judge? Nobody. It’s your life. Rather than trying to convince you to become the “greatest” the “Best” the “richest” the “poorest” or whateverest is your highest mountain to climb, I’m saying first: “think” (probably my favorite line from any Beatles’ song).
Think about what you want in life, where you are going and where you want to go. Most of these ideas I am boiling down through what I’m learning from James Altucher. Critics might claim Altucher is nothing more than an apologist for the failed hedgefunders generation that drove the country over a cliff in their shiny BMW’s and Mercedes. That might be true. But, in his angst, Altucher is at least trying to reach some baseline restart. I see the real significance not in the results he achieves, but in the chronicle of his struggle: a modern day Gatsby who has had it all and thrown it all away.
So, what about these greedy bastards? Who are they and how can we stop them? Are they the oligarchs and the moneyaholics appearing daily on CNBC? Nope, they’re you and me. Or, at least, they are me. I am them. I am one of them anyway. And in the past six months, I’ve slowly started to realize the blessings I possess and the foolhardiness of my ways. Like most Americans, I’ve been striving my whole life. I haven’t hit the home run YET. But, it’s just around the corner. It’s just one more sales meeting, or trade show, or new product away. But, I’ve sort of lost sight of that dream. For reasons I won’t go into here. But, what I do want to discuss is my greed in wanting everything.
Taking a life inventory. I’ve been married mostly happily for 20+ years to a beautiful, intelligent woman who loves me more than anything else on earth. That right there puts me in the top half at least, of people who measure happiness by marriage success. I have two great children both in college now, who I know will do their best to do their best. They both work hard and enjoy life way more than I did when I was in college. Success. I’m not trying to create a jealousy pot of things I have that you don’t. Trust me, you probably have a lot of cool things that I don’t. And, they’re probably things that I would really, really, like to have.
See, I’m a greedy bastard. I’m not satisfied with the great family, the loving wife, the crazy dog who greets me every day when I come home, happily surprised to see me again. I’m not happy with my safe neighborhood and my heat in the winter, AC in the summer lifestyle. I always want more. Because, I’m a greedy asshole. The cartoon below, put that all into perspective for me in four short panels. No matter how you slice up 24 hours in a day, there will only ever be 24 hours in a day. The myth of the CEO who sleeps 3 hours a night and has it all is just that: a myth. If we keep believing these myths: that the Oprahs and the Dr.Phils and the Abramovichs and the Kardashians of the world, really, really, really, really (and I mean really) have it so much better than the Archie Bunkers of the world, we are deluding ourselves into a nightmarish death spin into a dystopic future of parking lots full of BMW’s that can’t be driven anywhere.
I say, “Hurray for Oprah! Hurray for Dr. Phil! and Hurray for Wayne Rooney and making $750,000 a week.” Wayne Rooney must train like a madmen to make that money, and if he just pushes himself a little too hard “POOF!” the magic is all gone. And, as we see way too often in life, money makes as many people ill as it saves. Recognition of that fact though, is slowly dawning on me. I talk in platitudes (like the above paragraph) like most people at Sunday coffee after church. But, mostly we all try to forget all of that for Monday morning and our chance to grab the brass ring. I hope: my goal, now as I go through my midlife crisis and realize the truths about life that no one tells us – the one s we have to learn – is that I can accept those truths and still get up every day ready to do good work and good things and try to get the half dozen items on my Seinfeld Calendar checked off.
Because I can do this. Because I can think and I can write and I can draw and I can plan and I can dream, I feel like I owe it to the planet to do something with all of this, this amazing ball of human talents that we all possess in varying degrees and shades and temperaments. I know intellectually, I don’t need to be the smartest, the richest, the whateverest in life, but there’s still that nagging sensation that “if only we had opened a store in Albuquerque six years ago, we’d all be rich and famous now…” I just need to be me. As old as I am, I still hope to find some joy in discovering who that me is. Thanks to pbfcomics.com for creating an image I will forever carry folded up in my wallet.
BTW: the sad look on their faces really breaks my heart. She loves him. She knows he wishes he had a jet pack or a spaceship. Don’t make the love of your life a consolation prize, you lucky bastard. I wish I’d known that 20+ years ago.