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.
Walking through a hay field or a field of tall grass, it can be difficult to see stones on the ground until you are right above them. The hay is the first and only thing that you see as you look forward or backward. If you were to pick up a stone and throw it straight forward in your path, it would probably disappear from your sight. However if you repeated this action enough and your throw was straight, the stones would knock over some of the hay and the previously thrown stones would resurface farther down the field. With enough repetition and accuracy, you could develop a path of stones that would rise to meet you as you walked. This is most definitely not the way that I take walks but it represents something that I aspire to do regularly.
As we all walk through life, we have opportunities that come to us. We can only take opportunities in the present. The past is behind us and the future is beyond us. However much like the stones in the hay field, our present actions can effect our future outcomes. If we are consistently throwing stones of fitness forward, it creates a path that makes our journey easier. However when we throw the occasional stone, we usually cannot find it in the future because it gets lost in the hay. Consistently acting in the present is the only way to have an effect on the future.
In order for you to get what you want out of life you need to be taking SADD (Simple Actions Done Daily). Just because something is simple, doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Going to the gym is a simple action but it’s not easy. However if you do that simple action daily, you are throwing stones forward. If you do a daily action long enough, then you will have a system that makes throwing the stones automatic. The path is picked up only to be laid back down in front of you like the tread of a tank. Start building the tread of your tank today.
When I was a kid, my grandparents were one of the only families that I knew who had HBO. After we were supposed to be asleep, my brothers and I would hide on the steps and watch whatever movie the adults had on. This was the 80’s so we got to see some great stuff like Star Wars etc. One time the movie was the Terminator which terrified me for weeks to come but there was always one scene that struck me from that movie. For basically the entire movie, Sarah Connor is being hunted by the Terminator and her protector from the future, Kyle Reese, is her savior. It isn’t until almost the end of the movie, when Reese is barely able to keep himself up that Sarah takes over as his protector. She yells at the almost lifeless man, “On your feet soldier!” and does her best to support him as he struggles to move forward. This morning as I was running this scene popped into my head.
It gives a great example of the step that many of us need to take in our lives. We need to get ourselves up on our feet. Eventually we must realize that it is our responsibility to save ourselves. People can help us along the way but relying on someone or something else to carry us forever is unrealistic. Our parents, friends, teachers and government are not responsible for carrying us through life. At some point it is our responsibility to take that scary but necessary step of self-reliance. Deciding to take charge rather than play the victim is not an easy choice. It is so much easier to lean on and blame others for the lives that we lead. The problem with the completely dependent life is that it robs us of all of our power.
So my suggestion to you is exactly that, “On your feet!” Only you can carry yourself through this life. That’s your job. Only you can lose those 10 lbs, exercise every morning, start that new business, ask out that special someone or write that screenplay. Other people can help and support but if you don’t consistently act then it won’t last. There is always something out there that is trying to kill your dreams. Only you can keep them alive by staying on your feet and moving forward.
Live today like it’s on purpose.
A week ago, I posed a challenge to give up two of your personal poisons. Were you able to follow through? Did you last an hour, a day, three days or the full week? Regardless of the answer, what do you know about yourself now?
If you caved:
Did you do so because of a particular set of circumstances?
Did you fold to pressure from peers or family?
Did you do it unconsciously (without thinking)?
How did you react to your “failure”?
Did you rebound afterward? Or did you succumb to more temptation because “eh, I already screwed up, why stop now?”
If you made it:
Can you keep it going?/Do you want to?
What positive effect did this subtraction have?
Was there any negative effect?
What other poison could you eliminate?
There are many ways to organize our world and one of those is Inputs and Outputs. By making deliberate and conscious choices about the things, people and circumstances that we allow into our lives, we can lead ourselves to better outputs. If we pay attention only to feeling good in the moment, then we are dopamine addicts who are slaves to every “shiny thing” that this world puts in front of us. I’ve seen the maxim that “ignorance is bliss” hold in many situations. So perhaps I am the foolish one for looking past the moment for something deeper.