Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Better Than Before

Why won’t the C drive backup to the F? I’ve got four years of business failures to save here, this has to get done before the new machine gets setup, I thought as my morning began today.

Letting the antsy dogs pile through the now open sliding glass door is a test in anxiety, as the largest Jack quickly bolts toward the fence that divides my and the neighbors homes, I try to muster a no to yell, too late, he’s gone.

Staring at my closet I count dozens of shirts needing to go to charity, even more shoes, and the uncategorizable that haven’t been worn in years. Why was I holding on to this, and where is my sense of responsibility this morning? Get with it Clark.

Back at the computer client and contractor emails demanding more of my time intertwine into the very strand of DNA this company is made of, I need coffee.

Flipping through new music on Spotify I spy Gotye, an artist my sister showed me a few weeks ago in some odd body painting video. No time to waste as Jack’s probably getting shot at by the neighbors, surely armed to the teeth in this Carolina working class town, I need to get to the shower before hell breaks loose, Gotye will have to do.

Miniscule task by miniscule task modern me goes through the assembly line of life with Gotye providing the soundtrack. Old boots and khakis that are too big for me on bottom, a pocket tee on top, something warm over that, and some cold water for my hot dry throat. Is that a bark I hear? Gunshots? Time to get Jack.

With a defecation dodging dash through the backyard I find Jack on the neighbor’s side of the fence. He can’t get back over, it’s time for my morning dead lift, 65 lbs of dirty dog up, and down. His paws caked with dirt are eager to share with my fresh t-shirt. I try to dead lift him over the fence without allowing the paw pat with outstretched arms and half-succeed.

As I walk back to the house I think about my doctor’s visit last week, and that clipboard with the white blood cell count on it. You look at those things differently when a friend has cancer, you realize, if for just a millisecond, the pain and utter fear of the unknown they feel each day of their life, my body shudders at the thought of it, I fight back a tear.

Inside now Jack sips from a steel water bowl resting on the kitchen floor and decides to share his mud with his siblings, Rufus and Jill love nature, fresh mud to them is akin to the best stadium pretzel you’ve ever tasted at the big game, sinfully delicious.

Muddy and frustrated I stand in front of the computer, no sign of digital preservation via my C to F backup, I want to yell in frustration. My email count grows, some with subjects like Can You Help Me with This Now, and If You Could Just Review These 50 Pages Real Quick, why is good coffee so hard to find when you need it?

I pause, think about all that needed to get done today, and that’s when it happened, old Gotye started to play something half decent. A song about life, about being down and out, and now doing better than before. A familiar storyline in my life, I turn the volume up.

I think back to my sister’s assessment of the album; the title track Somebody That I Used to Know standing in far contrast in terms of quality and toe-tap ability to the others, and mostly I agree with her, until the better song arrived, aptly titled I Feel Better. As I brushed the now-dry dirt off my shirt, I started to grin, life was better, everything was and is better, like a thousand years of championship seasons my team sat atop the podium victorious, arms heavy only from holding the trophy of victory so high for so long. Any possible thing I’ve wanted over the years, real friendships, love, stability, progress for my family, honesty, a relationship with God, it was all at my desk, right there in front of me. Life at 32 is stunning.

Pinch me moments these days come early and often, life is everything that I want it to be, and here are the two reasons I think it’s there now, and why I think your life, despite your dog-over-the-fence moments can, and should be, just as good.

Accountability as Zero-Sum

If you aren’t taking accountability for something in your life, that something, whatever it is, will take away from your capacity to achieve success. Look no further than my alma maters last year.

South Carolina’s baseball team suffered a tremendous loss of talent throughout the regular season and playoffs from a cavalcade of injuries in 2011. The team had lost the previous year’s College World Series MVP, Jackie Bradley Jr., along with many other key players, and just as one would get healthy another would bite the dust, an injurious cycle evolved to the ranks of something college baseball had rarely seen. The team’s motto? Win anyway. And that’s what they did, tearing through the playoffs and College World Series to a tremendous second-straight national title. Throughout all the injuries there was no excuses made for not winning, the team bought into the zero-sum game of accountability, where any reason, valid or not, to not perform at their best each day was unacceptable to consider. Win anyway.

Ohio Wesleyan University has a tremendous soccer program for any size school, as the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out regarding the oxymoronic nature of college soccer, the smaller the school the bigger and better the program. So it might not come as a surprise to many that OWU won their second Division III national championship this past year. What might surprise many is the fact they did so just days after having all their gear stolen from their team van, everything from personal possessions, laptops with a semester’s worth of homework on them, and all else in-between. Having to borrow equipment from other college teams to play their playoff games, they took the zero-sum approach to accountability, and despite incredible odds won it all, making the coach, most likely the disseminator of the zero-sum attitude, the winningest college soccer coach of all time, that very game.

If you feel excuses creeping into your life, as we all tend to each day, work to fight them off. Realize that by taking full accountability for your actions each day the result will be like none other.

Of course the other part of this equation involves having a stable enough life to adhere to such a provocative schedule of self-reliance.


You need something desperately and it’s 3 am, who is there to drop everything, most likely sleep at that time, and come to your rescue? Anyone? This small assessment of your friend circle, what I call the 3 am test, can quickly flesh out who is unequivocally your friend and who is conveniently hanging around, know the difference and ditch the ones that would do the same to you if they had something better going on. Ironically they’ll respect you more for being so blunt.

Somewhere on the internet a study exists that states our personal income can be determined roughly by the mean of our social circle’s gross income. In other words, if we hang with a bunch of people that are unemployed we are apt to be as well. Conversely if we roll with big timers we’re probably in the 1% too. While what you make financially is inconsequential to whom you choose to befriend, what is important here is the real-life example of how statically we are similar to whom we surround ourselves with.

How do you view you? Loving, kind, selfless, interesting, adventurous? Are those the choice descriptors that you’d award to your friends? If not, remember the above equation of us being the financial, and quite possibly emotional, mean average of our friends. We don’t need friends that are exactly like us, especially if we are negative pessimists, but certainly we need friends that share a positive outlook on life, if progress is the goal. If you want to surround yourself with positive people think about visiting with the volunteers at a shelter or church or homeless mission, trust me those people will change your life for the better.

If we commit to surrounding ourselves with people that will make us better instead of comfortable, greatness can and will occur. It took me years, nearly a decade to be exact, to put to bed the relationships that held me down, and now I’m here to challenge you to do the same.

By no means do I have much of anything figured out, but as I grow older and count my failures in dozens instead of digits, I realize the wisdom in ideas I once thought cliché, to us both comes the spoils from following such ideas earnestly.

This post was inspired by the song I Feel Better by Gotye