Some called him a Bohemian. Others said he was a slacker. In truth, it doesn’t matter what he was called; all that matters is what we learned from him.
Life is not about learning how to win or lose, as much as it’s about learning how to play and even enjoy the game. For many people, however, this and other life lessons are often lost in their rush to cling to their delusions about what life is really all about: the attainment of some ‘cracker jack prize’ or ‘hollow victory’, if you will. The morbid and honest truth is that rushing your way through life yields the same ‘trophy’ as those who take it slow: a tombstone.
Yes, try as we might to hold onto things for dear life, we will all eventually lose our grasp. Despite our best efforts, life just has a funny way of slipping through our fingers, just like water. The lessons to be learned, beyond drink in some while you can, are multi-fold:
- Putting more energy into something does not necessarily ensure greater success.
This may sound like ‘slacker talk’ or the battle cry of the underachiever, but to some extent I think it’s true. We’re often told that practice makes perfect, but since nothing in life is perfect – why should we try our darnedest? Sometimes even for our best efforts, fate plays a hand and shit happens. Some call it luck, some call it God and divine intervention or providence … and some simply write it off as a matter of circumstance. The point is there are no guarantees on anything in life, so investments in energy should be made with a ‘caveat emptor’ attitude (buyer beware).
- Learn to let go
Conserve your energy and live to fight another day. Victory is not found in winning each and every battle; it’s found in ‘saving grace’. In the end, no one ever truly wins. In the grand scheme of things, there may actually be no master plan … at least none we can fathom – so perhaps we should stop trying so hard to control that which is uncontrollable. Learning to shrug your shoulders, smile and say “I did my best” is all that really matters, after all.
By the same token, worrying about what others think will only bring you down and eventually lead to your own self-immolation over pettiness and vanity; it serves no real purpose. Stop beating yourself up over how well you measure up to others’ expectations. Learn to be self-righteous about the intelligence you possess in knowing when it’s time to quit.
- Decisions are not final
Being stubborn is stupid. Decisions are rarely final and we shouldn’t feel bound by them in the long-term. Nothing in life is ‘final’ except death (at least on this plane of existence), so why should we think that the best decision today will still hold water tomorrow? With each new day comes a new set of circumstances, a new order of things and a new balance of worth and value. With each morning light we find a little bit more of the puzzle revealed. That which remained ‘unseen’ becomes ‘seen’ and must be reckoned with and reconciled. The new data helps us to form new perceptions and insight on all things we thought we had a clue about. We find our views and feelings have changed to some degree; our thoughts have changed and so our actions must follow. This is the way of things … it’s the way it’s always been.
- Enjoy the trip
Arriving at one’s final destination is a fleeting moment. You may be happy that you’ve arrived … but then what? Always the ‘what’s next’ follows. For some it’s a return trip, a vicious circle of sorts. For others, it’s just another decision to move on to another port of call. Folks, accomplishment is not found in souvenirs, bumper stickers, or belt notches; it’s found in the experiences and knowledge gained from the ‘trip’ itself.
I once travelled from Miami, Florida to Los Angeles, California by Greyhound bus. Actually, I did it twice. It was three days and three nights of zoning out, thinking deeply, and looking out the window. It was watching the beauty and majesty of nature and the heights and depths of Americana unfold along the way. There was day and there was night and all hours, minutes and seconds in between. Suffice to say that the end-points of departure and destination were merely concrete and steel launching platforms; I was there for a moment and then gone.
- Happiness never stems from trying too hard
These days everyone seems to have something to say about the attainment of happiness. In the words of John Lennon, happiness is a warm gun, while in the words of Charles M. Schultz it’s a warm blanket. Go figure.
The fact of the matter is that no one knows for sure about happiness, but everyone knows what makes them smile – and so that’s what we must all seek out, albeit individually. Personal happiness is not found in the ideas or even the personae of another living creature. It’s a wholly unique experience that only ‘one’ can experience for oneself.
It’s wrong to think that happiness stems from others or that said others must appreciate the happiness we force upon them. It’s right to think “to each his own” and “live and let live”. We can certainly share our happiness with others and express gratitude for those that make us happy. Yet, let’s be honest in saying that trying too hard to ‘be happy’ is tiring and often discouraging; ultimately it yields disappointment and depression.
Moreover, it should be commonly understood that fully appreciating happiness demands experiencing sadness. I’ll suggest that happiness is best found in life’s surprises and all those ‘little things’ we often hear about.
Tip: going after that ‘big fish’ may result in greater disappointment and a plethora of pulled muscles once it slips off the line. Little fish are more easily managed, and even easier to take home and mount on your wall.
- Learn to shuffle
The old proverb, ‘haste makes waste’, is dead on true. Rushing around like you have a rocket embedded in your butt will only make you burn out more quickly from stress and the anxiety of fearing failure. It goes without saying that stress is a killer; it leads to heart attacks, hair loss, and something akin to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Gaining that extra 2 minutes of time is no real prize and definitely not worth the aggravation. Time is precious and it is something to be savored, not hurried. Slow down and enjoy the moment, live in the here and now, stop rushing towards inevitability. Getting a leg up on the competition only means you’re more likely to topple over.
Society may be fickle in that it ironically fancies being both ‘prompt’ and ‘fashionably late’, yet credit is never given to those who exhaust themselves before reaching the finish line. In fact, knowing how to pace yourself is recognized as a good ‘life skill; yes, slow and steady wins the race.
- Reconsider things
I don’t know, maybe the saying ‘he who laughs last, laughs best’ is a good one, too.