being on track with your life

(This is a cross post. Please comment on “being on track with your life” on the chron blog here.)

From a post on CNN about an unemployed iReporter:

“I’m still fortunate to have a roof over my head and make do with what I can but I miss having a decent job and being on track with my life.” – sbeasia

I don’t mean to sound jaded, but does “being on track with my life” qualify as expectation or entitlement? I hear that from many people, frequently they are employed but have some other expectation. They can’t articulate WHERE they are “supposed” to be. But they can complain they aren’t “there” and look at you  solve it. Solve what?

Here’s the thing. Lament the loss of a job and work hard to find or create a new one. The CNN ireporter sbeasia is clearly doing that. But “being on track with my life” is an illusion. You might as well say “keeping up with the Joneses.” YOU CAN’T.

Reality is all of us with very rare exception are bumbling along and making due with circumstances. None of us are “on track with our life” as far as I can tell. And the few I have seen accomplish all of their “goals” are generally  dissatisfied  and hungry still. And someone somewhere is still richer, has a better job, has a beautiful house, has 2.5 kids, drives a Ferrari. Someone somewhere is more “on track with their life” because as humans our perception of what we want is always more than what we have.

I am not “on track with my life” and I’m OK with that. I’m in Texas because the Army stationed my Dad in San Antonio years ago. They left and I stayed. I went to a school mostly to play an obscure sport. I’m in Houston because I met a girl at school who was from Houston and we moved down here after college. That is all just bouncing around based on circumstance.

houston tunnels - curve in the roadI didn’t even intend to start a company. That was sort of an accident as well. Yes really. Oh, and the reality of running a company is NOTHING like the perception. Inspector Clouseau is one of my heroes because he embraces this reality. From wikipedia:

Regardless of his rather limited ability, he successfully solves his cases and finds the correct culprits, even if this success is achieved entirely by accident. As such, he is even promoted to Chief Inspector over the course of the series, and is regarded by many other characters who presumably have not met him as  France‘s greatest detective; those characters he actually encounters, nevertheless, are quick to realise his incompetence and limitations. He is immensely  egocentric  and pompous; despite his many failings, he is seemingly convinced that he is a brilliant police officer destined to succeed and rise through the ranks of the  Sûrete.”

That is completely me. If I solve a case half the time it’s just by luck. Or as the Inspector would say, “I knew that” after the house fell down around him. “That is not my dog” indeed!

None of us are entitled to a particular station in life any more than Clouseau was entitled to be a Chief Inspector. If you achieve some perceived “station”, or get lucky and win lotto, then good for you. But you aren’t entitled to it. And EVERYONE feels like they “aren’t far enough along.” Particularly during the Great Recession. You are not alone, although that doesn’t help much. Changing the toxic internal dialog however just might help.

The problem isn’t that things are tight and you need to cut back on cable and get a roommate. Or that you aren’t “on track with your life” and can’t afford $60 a month for cigarettes or a $500 car payment. The problem is entitlement. And it’s worse than that because it is entitlement  that will forever be unrequited. It is entitlement to a carrot on a stick that will ALWAYS be held out in front of us.

I am definitely not “on track with my life” but at least I realize that is society creating false expectations. But I still work Saturday’s. Clouseau might not have the right theory, but he is present and solves the case anyway. So be present.

If you are thinking “I’m not on track with my  life” then go create something. And quit letting Mother Culture tell you how you should act and where you should “be”.

“(Mother Culture) is not a real entity, just as Mother Nature isn’t. I believe that’s why he chose the name. Mother culture refers to the voice in your head that tells you how to think and act ‘normal’ in your society. It is TV ads and movies and fairy tales and laws and school lessions that all are based on the same underlying values. It is reinforced by everybody around you buying into the program without ever really knowing there is a program.

Mother culture is a subtle influence and much of it is not explicitly said. It is a bias on how you observe the world, the tint in your ski goggles when the world looks slightly yellow.

You aren’t a puppet. You are a free man. And freedom doesn’t look like the beautiful people on TV. You aren’t at your “proper” “station in life” because it is an illusion. Be present.

(This is a cross post. Please comment on “being on track with your life” on the chron blog here.)

every day

“Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.” – Goethe

cod fish were in much demand

Let me tell you a story of the cod fish. At the turn of the century cod fish were in much demand on the east coast. News of this tasty fish spread across the country all the way to the west coast. There was however a problem. How could they get the fish across the country and still keep it fresh.

They tried to freeze the fish and send it by rail, the fastest means at the time. When it was prepared it turn out to be very mushy and lacked flavor. Then someone decided to ship the fish live turning railroad cars into huge saltwater aquariums. When the cod fish arrived they were still alive but when they were prepared they were still mushy and tasteless.

After studying the cod fish someone discovered that their natural enemy was the catfish.

This time when the cod fish were but in the tanks they place a few catfish in with them. Those catfish chased the cod fish all the way across the country to the west coast. This time when they were prepared they were flaky and had the same flavor as they did when they were caught fresh and prepared on the east coast.

You see the catfish kept the cod from becoming stale. The catfish kept them fresh.


No One Makes it Alone – NO ONE.

Ninja Squirrles Cooperating
Ninja Squirrles Cooperating

Reading Gladwell‘s book Outliers, and this quote grabbed my attention.

He’d had to make his way alone, and no one — not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses — ever makes it alone.

I have always disliked the phrase “self made man” because in my experience I have never met one. Ever. We have this vision of a Galt-esque intellectual warrior who single handedly drives to success. And while this archetype may exist, they don’t achieve this success without innumerable amounts of assistance from people.

So the next time you hear someone say they are “self made”. Or a friend describe someone as a “self made man”. Please call BS. And buy them a copy of Outliers.

The photo? Two squirrels cooperating by the vision of the artist Elaine Bradford.