The Mayan people are an interesting historical group to study. Their story is filled with impressive accomplishments and shrouded in mystery because of their sudden decline and disappearance. They were highly skilled in mathematics and scientific discovery. Long before Europeans set foot in the “New World” they had a working 365 day calendar and produced thousands of books using a type of paper made from bark. Some of their cities contained sports arenas, schools, hospitals and libraries. In terms of fashion, they were far ahead of their time with ear gauges and other adornments that are still practiced today. As impressive as the Mayan accomplishments are, the thing that seems to make them most interesting is that they disappeared.
The story arc of almost any great person or society has an origin followed by a rise to prominence and an eventual fall or recession. The Mayan people seemed to be at their peak when they all but disappeared. There are theories about their decline but no one is completely certain. It was in thinking about their decline that I began to face Mayan Activity (My Inactivity).
On some level the end of the Maya is most likely the same thing that brings the end of us all. The things that are left undone. Failure is very rarely a product of someone who did too much but rather the person or people who did not do enough. The people who failed to prepare, to learn, to try, to understand or act. We can stand idly by and blame our downfall on circumstance but the truly great people make circumstances bend to their will. The rise of the Mayans did not promise them a future that would last forever. They were only promised that moment and most likely their inactivity lead to their Mayan downfall.
So the question now comes to you. Are you at your peak and ready for your decline? Or have you just begun? Is the height that you’ve reached only a stepping stone to where you will end? It is not a question of when but a question of will that makes us great. The story of the Mayans is the story of so many. Unrealized promise. Do you want to look back and think what might have been or revel in the glory of what was?
Reverse your inactivity today!
The 20th Century of the United States was largely dominated by an industrial economy. The US rode the wave of the industrial revolution into prominence on the world stage. Factories flourished thanks to interchangeable parts and largely interchangeable people. Most workers in the 20th Century were able to earn a substantial living by doing simple repetitive tasks under the orders of their bosses.
In this system, it is no wonder that the sport of the century was Football. In so many ways, football was representative of the American way. It was progressive. Moving forward was success and moving backward was failure. It mirrored our historical land acquisition with its own “land acquisition”. The decisions were made by a few bosses and executed by largely interchangeable people. The sport was the perfect corollary for the industrial age and both served the country well in their time.
Now that the industrial age has passed and we have moved into what many are calling the “Connection Economy”. The people who create value in the market place are not interchangeable cogs in a vast machinery. Cogs can be replaced, automated or outsourced to other countries. True value in the modern economy is created by an individual whose contributions are irreplaceable and unique.
This change begs for a different representation in sport. The football model of “run the play” holds little value when the rules of the game change so quickly. Soccer’s flexibility and subjectivity require that players deal with complex problems and must make individual decisions for the betterment of the collective. Since each player is a decision maker, principles rather than directives are the dictating forces. No one person is in control. Therefore players must learn to control themselves and direct themselves in an uncertain environment.
The beautiful game will become “America’s Game”. It is just a matter of time.
At one point in history, the transition from Clark Kent into Superman was done in a phone booth. The changing room for the “man of steel” was a utility of the every man. People could feel their own association to this man with supernatural powers by simply making a phone call. Unfortunately times have changed. The phone booths have disappeared and so have our beliefs in the possibility of greatness for the common man.
In the modern day, the only small changing room available to Superman would be a Port-o-Potty. As depressing as this may seem, perhaps it is the perfect mental picture for the situation of the day. Our inclination is no longer to believe in the magnificent or the awe-inspiring. Instead we assume that everything is a sham, fraud or ripoff. Our hope has been sullied by too many people that sought to capture our dollars and not our hearts. A hero of today almost has to rise out of the refuse because we tend to assume that squeaky clean is too good to be true. Or worse, we cannot believe in our own possibility for greatness because we know where we come from.
Clark Kent, the phone booth or the port-o-potty are all just a prelude to the magnificent. In our cynical world, it’s easy to poke holes in anything and find what is wrong. The measure of the hero is not in his lack of faults. The hero is measured by how consistently he shows up and does what other people cannot or will not. So do not assume because your story is not perfect that it is not your time to be the hero. At bare minimum there is at least one person in this world that needs you to show up every day and do whatever you’re able. That person is you! You’re the hero that you’ve been waiting for!
At one point in history, I’m sure that superlatives meant something. I surely felt like they did during my childhood. Michael Jordan was definitely the best player in the NBA. You didn’t need to shout it louder to make your point. It could be said softly with a calm assurance that it was accurate. As the internet has given a voice to every two thumbed animal with a high speed connection, superlative seems to be a game for people who want to yell the loudest.
Since everyone can be heard, the time to say nothing may be here. Perhaps in the era of communication overload, it is the individual who does and says nothing that will truly stand out. Rather than doubling down on superlatives and expletives, it might be time to be more subtle.
Today when you go out into the world, do the simple and subtle. Smile a little more. Be a little more patient. Be forgiving to yourself. Home-runs can win games but so can singles. If we’re always swinging hard for the fences, we may strikeout on underhand pitches because we’re too jacked up.
At the present moment, the “selfie” has become so common place that it is almost a requirement at any social function involving young people. It is the photographic representation that “I was there”. Although showing up is an important part of the equation, it has inexplicably become a standard of achievement rather than the bare minimum. The problem with the selfie is that anyone can fake it for a fraction of a second. There needs to be more to life than a collection of rehearsed faces and hand gestures. We need to look in mirrors rather than practicing our poses.
The beauty of the mirror is that it does not lie. Stand in front of a mirror for long enough and you’ll realize that your best friend and worst enemy are staring back at you. In this duplicity you’ll find everything that you could possibly need to achieve your every desire. You’ll also find most of the road blocks that will stand in your way. The mirror is going to tell it like it is. It won’t accept fake poses for very long. Fat, skinny, ugly, pretty, average or anything else are all there for you to deal with. As you begin to look at who you truly are in the mirror, you’ll recognize that showing up is not enough. Faking it for an instant is not enough. The world expects more! Now you can either hide behind the mask of poses or accept the challenge to carry the mirror with you.
The mirror may reside in your head or in your heart but it can be with you always. As you go through your day, you can look to see if you are being true to yourself. Your best self! Throughout the day checking to see if you’re going in the right direction to those places that you desire to go. As you get closer, you’ll notice that the reflection in the mirror gets better and it’s easier to look. When you finally reach your goal, I suppose you could take a selfie…. But the picture you have inside of who you’ve become is so much better. So for today, don’t just show up! Wake up, stand up and look in the mirror. Then keep working until you’re ecstatic with what you see!
There is very little that is inherently special about any of us. Most of us are of average height, income, etc. Even if you are an outlier in height or something else, you’re most likely average in other ways. Special is not a divine right handed down through genealogy.
Special is a choice. It takes a different mentality to do the things that other people will not or cannot. Showing up is not particularly special unless the place that you show up is the top of Mt. Everest. In each moment, we have a choice to be special or be like everyone else. Being special yesterday gives you no guarantee toward being special today. You’ve got to put chips back on the table, double down if you can because the world owes you absolutely nothing! The word ‘deserve’ belongs exclusively to those that have chosen to do more.
So what will you be today? Will you choose to be special or be just like everyone else? Special is a choice that you can either make or be disappointed in the thought that it wasn’t your day to be chosen as ‘special’. It’s not a gift, it’s a choice!
Cups are an everyday thing that we rarely take much notice of. They are a utility that must have a few very simple features. They need to have walls of some sort and a bottom. Without the bottom, it is just a cylinder. The bottom is the essence of the cup. It does not have to sit flush to the table. It can be raised to any height within the walls that the designer wants. Tops are completely optional. Sometimes they are useful but the majority of cups have no need for a top.
It can be helpful to have a bottom in life as well. A set of standards that you will not go below. This bottom should not be a goal but a mental barrier that as you approach it, you start to build back up. Upward movement creates space and the possibility of raising the bottom. Cap the downside first.
In life and cups, tops are optional. If you’ve put a limit on what you can be, do or accomplish, flip your perspective and use that top as your bottom. Cap the downside first. Perhaps you’ve already done this or maybe you just think that you have. Regardless having a bottom to your cup is much more important than putting a top on it. Stay away from the bottom and keep testing if there is a top.
Redefine the top today!
In the movie “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” is one of my favorite scenes from any movie. It is a conversation that the character Smeagol has with his alter ego Gollum. Peter Jackson and his crew did a beautiful job with the scene. It was shot as a conversation between two people even though the two exist in the mind of one person. Gollum is obsessed with reacquiring the power of the ring while Smeagol fights to regain his life from the grips of that obsession. This scene resonated with me because at times I feel that type of conversation going on in my own head.
Inside of my head I have two voices battling for my attention. One says all the things that I fear and want to avoid. It not only points those things out but it also tells me that they are bound to happen. The other voice tells me that everything is going to work out and that I have nothing to fear. Neither voice is particularly right. However believing the first paralyzes me and it was the one that I listened to most in younger years. Believing the second has gotten me to do more than I thought that I could.
For a moment in the “Two Towers” Smeagol is able to banish Gollum from his life. However he resurfaces later in the movie much like my own antagonist. It is a battle that I know will most likely never be won completely. However with each successive day, I find new ways to unlock myself and others from the paralysis. The fear is not stronger but giving up is easier than doing what needs to be done. So the combination of fear and complacency is a two headed monster that squashes our dreams for the future before we even begin.
Love you Dr. Knowles!
Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the varied tools that we have at our disposal. We become “one trick ponies” by choice rather than design. Losing sight of more subtle talents can happen to anyone who has found success with their preferred tool. When in possession of a great hammer, seeing everything as a nail comes almost naturally. The problem lies in the fact that all tools are not constructive and some tools kill better than they build.
The scorpion question is rather absurd. I doubt very heavily that scorpions are capable of itching. Even if they were, using their stinger to do it would be both uncomfortable and possibly fatal. With six legs in the vicinity, the scorpion would have to be pretty self-destructive to choose his stinger as his belly scratcher. The unfortunate truth is that many of us do this anyway. The lawyer who cross-examines his wife and children. The athlete who tries to use his might in order to make right in his world. The teacher who hopes that special someone will learn how to love them through their example.
We are all scorpions with legs and stingers. The intelligent scorpion knows there’s a time to use each. A less intelligent scorpion only uses its stinger because it is his best tool. When you are scratching an itch, be sure that it does not become deadly because you don’t know how to choose the right tool.
This morning on my daily run, I saw something on the sidewalk in front of me in the darkness. I had assumed that it was a garbage can lid or something of that sort. When I got close enough to make out what it was, I realize that it was a dead black cat. It was not what I was expecting but I veered to the right and continued past the feline that had met its demise under a car tire. As I finished my run, I gave some thought to what a “luckologist” might have to say about my experience.
From one point of view, the cat was not able to cross my path. So my fate should be clean and clear. On the other hand, black cats are supposed to carry all sorts of bad omens. So having a dead one show up in your path could not be good. Before writing this I did a cursory search of the interwebs and found nothing concrete about dead black cats.
So here I am at the end of my day that basically started with dead black cat. It was a pretty good day overall. Although it was busy and filled with lots of “to do” list items rather than “want to do” items, I really cannot complain. My day was not a product of the luck of the draw. I was the major factor in the fortune or misfortune that I experienced. Life is not a set of circumstances to avoid or omens to look for. It is a string of possibilities that we choose to act upon or let pass.
The greatest predictor of your destiny is not how many mirrors you’ve broken or four leaf clovers that you’ve found. It is the actions that you take. The words that you say to a loved one when they need it most. It’s the helping hand that you give to someone that you barely know. Choosing to stand up when all you want to do is run away. These are the decisions and actions that decide your “luck”. Your good fortune is not something mystical that you have to fear. Your good fortune comes from a life of good action and recognition that you were “lucky” to be alive today, no matter how it went.