What Would I Tell a 22-Year-Old Today?

Fail fast and often.

IMG_0044Everyone your age gets lots of advice. And you’re not even asking for it, are you? Well, here’s the deal: when you ask for advice, you’re pretty much tapping into the stuff you already know, deep down inside at the gut level. You know it. Yes. You know it.

Here are five things I’d like to tell you. It’s a short list—so I hope you’ll read it.

  1. Be kind.
  2. Fail fast and often (like Michael Jordan!).
  3. Read (or listen) voraciously.
  4. Smile widely.
  5. Don’t forget to have fun.

We could go on for paragraphs. Write books (there are lots). And make long speeches. But those are the five that matter today. If you want my advice, see what books, speeches, podcasts, and  TED talks exist to expand on each of these ideas. Or not. Just having these five to think about should do it.

P.S. If you’re not 22, it’s okay. You might also consider the five suggestions above.

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan

A Real Loser

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No one likes to lose. Winners, especially,  do not like to lose. However, not winning is not the same thing as losing.

Not winning is not the same as losing.

  1. You are only a real loser if you do not learn from your loss.
  2. You are only a real loser if you do not revel in the fact that you still have more room to grow in your chosen endeavor. 
  3. You are only a real loser if you do not want to learn from the winners.
  4. You are only a real loser if you do not question what your goals are and how hard you want to work to achieve them.
  5. You are only a real loser if you beat yourself up.
  6. You are only a real loser if you live in the loss rather than living in the present.
  7. You are only a real loser if you don’t realize that every winner has lost at one time. That’s how they get better.
  8. You are only a real loser if you don’t realize that there will always be someone better than you at some point in your life.
  9. You are only a real loser if you do not understand that you are not the loss. You are perfect. Sometimes, God has something he wants you to learn. 
  10. You are only a real loser if you do not brush yourself off and try again.

              Try again.

                 

Different

The eighth grade boy was the only one in the classical dance show last night. It was an arts school, yes, but he was alone on the stage. How would he spend his day at a normal school? How does he make this decision every day —to  be different, so different? Because something in his heart makes it worth the pain, and we can only be reminded of Mikael Baryshnikov… a truly great dancer who despite being Russian, was probably still derided by his vodka-drinking buddies for doing pirouettes instead of playing soccer. There were undoubtedly days of being called gay or being thrust head first into a trashcan, or pelted with tomatoes on the way home from the ballet studio. Yet he persevered.

It is scary to think that people who dared to be different may have succumbed to peer pressure; to the pain of being different — and gave up. What if Mozart had given up? Michael Jordan? Bill Gates? How do you know you’re different enough to be really good, though? What about all the male dancers that never make it to that top, and just go through life being different, feeling the pain but never achieving success with it?

Somehow, one must be able to withstand the separateness by basking in the sheer joy of doing what you do because it’s what you crave. It makes you happy; it provides moments of unbridled peace, calm and beauty. It eschews the idea that success in life is measured by money or fame, but rather is discovered by realizing that there is something that makes you so happy you smile from the deepest core of your being all the way out to a glow on your skin. Many people never find that. It’s a shame!

It’s probably because this happiness comes at the cost of the pain, and the moments of frustration and solitude endured by hours and hours of practice in a room with an instrument, at the ballet barre, at the computer, at the driving range, in a swimming pool, or wherever one does one’s servitude to the god of Perfection; and she rarely yields her blessing. Perfection arrives sporadically if at all; sometimes never. Mostly in the blink of an eye, then it’s gone, and you doubt it was there, because, it really could have been better, couldn’t it? Probably so.

So, you’re left wondering… I did it perfectly, or nearly so, and I practiced until my eyes crossed, my toes bled, my muscles screamed in agony, my head pounded. And finally, I tried out. I auditioned, I competed, I sent it off, I played my best, did my best, sounded my best. But what if I did not win, get the part, make the grade, or achieve that illusive next level? I still I love what I do. So I will keep trying, remain different, and be joyfully alone and true to myself.

Deadlines

Deadlines are the lines drawn in the sand, the air, and on calendars. They are imaginary lines past which one should not go, or you’ll die.  Die of what?  Failure? Disappointment? Losing a job? Not answering a need? Shame?

Deadlines are a form of communication.  “I need this by noon so we can move forward on the project.”

There should be no room for negotiation in a deadline. There is no room for negotiation in death, is there? So why do people push up against deadlines by crushing the work to be done up against the wall of the deadline?  To see if it will move?  Will it give in like a loose door, or an unsure mother or father?  Kids know this instinctively. Will the rules change if we keep ignoring them? Will Mom and Dad change their minds? Will my manager forget? Will the rule/deadline go away in the rush of life?

photodune-1687970-precious-time-concept-clock-mSome of us use faraway deadlines like beacons for purposeful activity, plotting steps from A to B in the final goal to arrive at Point Z.  Others of us assume that there’s still plenty of time and that there’s no use getting all excited — nothing can be gained by starting too early, they say.  It wastes time to start too soon, they say.  Besides, working under the pressure of a close deadline works in in their favor, they think, as in, “I work better because I’m more focused if time is short.”

Oh? What if your computer breaks? What if the electricity goes out? What if you get sick? What if?

I like deadlines. I like setting up a meeting… it gives me a deadline. I like to be early, to have room and time to make one last pass, one final reading, a once over to see if I left a sponge in the abdomen of my patient before they wake up. (I wanted to see if you were paying attention!)

There’s the Leonard Bernstein quote to throw in here, too. “To achieve great things two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” I think that’s the reason deadlines are SO important.  Somewhere along the creative lines of life, the concept of not quite enough time leads us to finality. If we didn’t have deadlines, we would continue to fix, trim, and self-edit until nothing ever, ever was produced. “Perfect is the enemy of good,” as they say. Someone has to say those two wonderful words, “It’s done!”

I like the pressure and excitement of a looming deadline, but sometimes, just sometimes, I procrastinate… to feel that teeny rush. Shucks. My cover is blown.

I write about the things that I would like to do better—largely because I’m not perfect. See my recent blog on “Perfect” if you’re so inclined. Meanwhile, I have a deadline.

March, April, and May

“It’s not what you think.”

“Oh yeah? I saw you two together!”

April sighed, put on her new spring coat, the shiny pink one with black polka dots and matching pink and black rain hat, and started for the door. May wouldn’t let her alone.

“You and March were at the mall. I saw you.”

“April spun around, glared at May and said, “You have to ruin everything.”

“Yes, I guess I do. You two go have fun.  I’ll leave tonight after work at the calendar factory,” May said.

“You don’t know, do you?”

“Know what?”

“It’s a surprise party. It WAS a surprise party.  All the months were meeting to make your birthday cake, and then we were going to invite Mom and Pop Time to the park for hot dogs and hamburgers.  March and I were buying decorations.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. Oh.”

Second Place?

What happened? Did you hesitate? Didn’t you hear the gun go off? Did you look away for a moment? Well, these are takeoffs from a Jerry Seinfield routine, but when it’s close, second place hurts, and if it’s something stupid, it makes you nuts! Even so, for win, place, or show in horseracing, Gold, Silver or Bronze at the Olympics, the athletes “in the money” have different takes for sure.

The winner cannot be anything but happy. Right? Or not. Sometimes, they wonder if it’s a fluke. They ponder whether indeed the second place person just stumbled, and the second placer is really better after all. Then there’s the Silver Medal person. They worked just as hard. They practiced, bled, sacrificed, competed. Continue reading “Second Place?”