The story of Superman becomes very boring without Kryptonite. A man who is super strong, fast, invulnerable, can fly and shoots lasers from his eyes is not a compelling story. His abilities make him unbeatable. So defeating evil-doers is not a matter of ability, it’s a matter of time. Without Kryptonite, Superman’s story becomes one of an interplanetary janitor who is here to clean up our biggest societal messes. A completely infallible hero is difficult to sell but exposing his Achilles heel makes him a star.
The recognition of Kryptonite as the fuel that drives the story of Superman is not just comic book pontificating. It is the realization of exactly what makes our own lives worth living. Our Kryptonite is death. It may seem like the enemy but it is the thing that makes the moments of our lives matter. Without death, time is an inexhaustible currency that has no value to us personally. Frittering away minutes, hours or even years would be meaningless to the person who will live forever. The intrigue is gone because there is nothing at stake. This is great news!
The time that you do have is a gift. It has value to both you and the people that you touch throughout your life. Don’t become crippled by the fact that you will die some day. Be empowered by the fuel that it can give you to live with purpose and passion. Your existence is only a drop in the ocean of eternity. Make that drop count! The fact that your Kryptonite is out there somewhere in the future makes you both: powerful and meaningful. You’ve got one shot at this . Go for it!
Have a SUPER day! (Yes! That was cheesy! But what the hell!)
One of the best movies from a pure story standpoint that I’ve seen is “The Usual Suspects”. The film takes you on a ride where you’re continuously led down paths for particular reasons. A main reason for the perplexing nature of the film is the doubt surrounding the myth of Keyser Söze. For those unfamiliar with the film, Keyser Söze is a purported crime boss who controls the sale of drugs, weapons, etc. from the shadows of anonymity. At one point he is portrayed as a “spook story” that thieves tell their children, “Rat on your Pop and Keyser Söze will come get you.”
Personally I never heard that version of spook story when I was a kid but I can see its usefulness to some people. The fairy tales and legends that we are told as children vary greatly depending on the desired outcome from our upbringing. Aspirational and cautionary tales alike are used to push the child in particular directions. Keep on trying courtesy of “The Little Engine that Could”. Be prepared by “The Three Little Pigs”. Don’t be sexually promiscuous by “Little Red Riding Hood” (Didn’t know until I talked to a German teacher). These stories were all fashioned to get a result.
The thing about all of these stories is that they are made up. Complete fabrications from the imagination of someone long ago. They’ve been changed, updated, amended, forgotten and remembered. The reason that they still exist is that they were effective through the years. “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” got me to stop going to the nurse’s office every day in 3rd grade. So since stories are effective if they’re told enough and have the desired message, what is the story that you tell yourself about yourself? The Myth of Keyser Söze was that he was an almost superhuman figure who was powerful and ruthless. Before that story could be spread, he had to at least partially tell it to himself.
Now it is your turn. Tell the story of you to yourself. Adapt it, amend it, change it to fit your needs. The endpoint that you desire to have should be attained through some form of work mixed with an optimistic attitude to never give up. The story is out there in the realm of possibility. Now you just need to write it, tell it and live it.
Tell your story!
For most of my life, I’ve had a portion of Teddy Roosevelt’s speech at the Sorbonne memorized. “It is not the critic who counts… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” It’s moving. It moves me in the sense that I actually take action when I think of it, hear it in my head or in my heart. The issue is at the moment, the critics have such a large megaphone that it becomes hard to hear our heads and our hearts. The echo of other people’s point of view tends to linger, burn and even cut the ones who are actually in the arena. The credit may belong to the man in the arena but that credit is hard earned because people want you to lose and never let you forget it.
The only thing to do is go deaf. Deaf to the jeers, the criticisms and the negativity. The volume of the critic does not matter if you pay no attention. Besides the only reason the words of the critic ever penetrated is because you believed them at least partially. Their message about you being a failure or a loser resonated with you on some level deep within. So the inner critic is actually the one that has the power to take you down.
The way to silence the inner critic is to run. Run straight into the arena. Sleep there, eat there, get your ass kicked there but at least in the arena, the inner critic has to stay in the stands. He can’t get his hands on you as long as you stay fixed in the center of the ring. Perhaps in the end you’ll find out that the critics were right and you didn’t have the stuff. But at least you’ll know for sure, while they’re left wondering about themselves. Outwardly chastising but inwardly envying the chance that you took to gain the credit of the arena.
Have a great weekend!
Last night I saw Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 with my son. (No spoilers, don’t worry!) One of the central characters in the Guardians series is Groot. He is a slightly simple-minded creature who can only say one thing “I am Groot”. Luckily his partner, Rocket, is extremely adept at understanding and deciphering his message. While Groot is often the star of the show, Rocket makes him accessible to everyone.
Although we are speaking the same language, the words that are said and the way that they are interpreted are two different things. Relationships depend heavily on language (both spoken and unspoken). If you want to be understood in any relationship, seek first to understand. Most of us are trying so hard to get our message out, that we forget to put the receivers up. Better listening (and reading of body language) can make you a more effective communicator.
It’s fine to say “I am Groot” if you’re talking to Rocket. The problem comes when someone else needs to understand. Then it’s on you to be clear. No one will be as invested in your message as you are. So put the effort into becoming a better messenger, rather than turning up the volume on your message.
The Shawshank Redemption is one of my all time favorite movies. Based on how often it is shown on TV, I’m not the only one. SPOILER ALERT! If somehow you’ve not seen this movie that was released in 1994 and don’t want it ruined, STOP READING! (For those that are pressing on) The movie and the book that it is based on recount the multiple decades of Andy Dufresne’s life in Shawshank State Penitentiary as the wrongly convicted murderer of his wife and her lover. There are some differences between the movie and the book but mostly Andy is a methodically planning his escape through a tunnel in his cell wall. He finally achieves his goal after years of slow chiseling and eventually crawling through a shit-filled pipe. Shawshank was not meant to hold Andy Dufresne because he was free where it counted most, in his mind.
While most of us can’t imagine living Andy’s life in Shawshank, we can definitely imagine the way that we wish our life was. We wish that things were easier, less busy, more money, fewer problems and more “perfect”. The problem with the image of perfect is that it is a prison of its own. That image exists in a completely fictitious world where things just fall into place magically. While it may be a nice diversion, it is not anything resembling a game plan.
So if you want to break free from the prison of that perfect image and move to real freedom, you may need to follow the path of Andy Dufresne. Chisel away at that dream that you have, possibly for years. Take joy discarding the small pieces of rubble that you’ve chipped away from the wall in front of you. Just be ready when you finally feel that you’ve broken through, there could still be 500 yards of shit for you to crawl through. Expecting that type of a path will make your real journey to your dream life seem like a walk in the park!
Break out the rock hammer!
Mike – “This is Trent. We call him Double Down.”
Trent. – “Stop right there! Ladies, don’t you always double down on an 11?”
Lisa – “No matter what. Like splitting aces.”
It’s a smart play to double down on an 11 in Black Jack because your chances of hitting 21 are worth the extra gamble. On the other hand, it’s foolish to double down on a losing hand. In cards your chances are based on mathematical probability. Playing the odds is the name of the game. Avoid the slim odds!
In our lives, the game is not entirely mathematical. Decisions are made for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with probability. Emotion, prior programming and a host of other variables lead to the less than logical decisions that we humans make regularly. For example I double down on mistakes. It’s not something I do intentionally. It happens less today than it did a few years ago but it happens. Most of the improvement in this area is due to habits and pre-scripting.
Like doubling down on an 11, daily habits that have the greatest possibility of working are key. Usually these habits are not hard to find. You know what they are but in the moment people get overwhelmed by emotion and choose the easy/comfortable route. The path to where you want to go is not hard to find, it’s just hard to follow. The more times that you follow that path, the easier it becomes to stay on.
Actors can definitely ad-lib their lines but for the most part, they work from a script. Pre-scripting particularly difficult actions in your mind can be an effective way to get past them with the best results. Visualizing the event in advance puts you into a proactive state of mind rather than reactive. It does not resolve the situation in advance but can reduce the amount that emotion carried to it.
So go out into the world and bet on yourself. Double down on the things that lead you to the life that you want. Don’t allow yourself to bet on lottery number odds with your life. Getting what you want is not a matter of luck, it’s a matter of time if you set the game up right!
To a certain extent, I feel like I’m in therapy or at an AA meeting about to admit one of my biggest weaknesses but here it goes: I like a lot of Keanu Reeves’ movies. It really shouldn’t be that embarrassing because the man’s movies have made millions (maybe billions) over the years. Unfortunately he gets a bad rap because he’s pretty goofy and doesn’t have a lot of range. The interesting thing is that for the most part, this anti-Keanu sentiment comes from people who have never acted before and have paid to see his movies. So is it really that he is THAT bad? Or do people simply have a need to pick apart a mediocre swan because it’s easier than looking in the water to see an ugly duckling reflected back?
While wading through all of the photos, videos, memes, tweets and posts, it is possible that some of us get a little judgmental. It’s easy to forget when looking at a screen that the people on the other side are human. They have hopes, fears, idiosyncrasies, habits and faults. These are all things that we expect from the people that we are close to. However when looking at people on social media or especially people in the spotlight, all understanding goes out the window. The best of the best need to be as close to infallible as possible. If they fall anywhere short of that standard, then we of the judging majority can swoop in to point out their shortcoming.
But it is not the critic who counts*. The internet has given each of us a voice. That voice should be used to make your own special contribution to the world. Not to tear down that of another. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena*. So take that chance to put your own stamp on the world. Don’t worry about the haters because even Keanu has got them. Would you rather be the worst of the best or the best of the worst? Put another way. Would you rather have produced something that wasn’t great? Or never produced anything but gotten really good at calling out other people’s failures? One’s easy and one’s hard but the decision should be obvious.
*Lines from Teddy Roosevelt’s speech at the Sorbonne.
Each of us has a potential amount of fire power in a given year. If you think of your energy to finish projects as gunpowder, some of us have a barrel full and others could barely fill one of those Chinese novelty snap pellets. While knowing how much powder you have is helpful, it is also important to divvy it up intelligently. Even the barrel-full may not be sufficient if divided a thousand times and put into the wrong weapons. By contrast, an intelligently used pinch could be life-changing. So how much firepower do you really have and where are you going to use it?
At the end of this year will you be basking in the glory of your successful hunt? Or will you be left standing with your Red Ryder Carbine in denial that you’re full of hot (but compressed) air? That’s completely up to you and it starts right now. Pick out your targets, if you haven’t already. Write them down and decide how you will take them down. Although truly ‘How’ is very rarely the problem. It is usually getting the focus and commitment to the target that people fail to do. So write them down now!
Once you have your targets, then you can plan out how to systematically deal with each one. It’s a simple enough process once you commit to it. What you need to do is “fall back on superior firepower and superior intelligence. And that’s all she wrote!”
It’s a throwaway line from Star Wars: A New Hope. The purists will point out that the actual line is “This R2 Unit has a bad motivator!” but either way it is enough to stop the red droid in his tracks. At that point, it’s back in the sand crawler with the Jawas. There is something all too familiar about this situation. At times motivation seems like an illusive force that some people have the power to wield while others struggle to find it. There is nothing supernatural about it. The reason to do or not do something (don’t get me started on trying) is a mixture of chemicals that are released in our brains and the story that we tell ourselves. So if you’re not doing something that you want to (or know that you should), it’s because you’ve got a bad motivator.
In our society, we are rarely threatened by starvation, predators or a lack of resources. These were the things that motivated our ancestors. Theirs was a life linked heavily with necessity. Our needs have been replaced by our desires. Unfortunately for those with bad motivators, most of the things that are easily acquired come with bad side effects. Also the things that have true value often require a decent amount of effort. So the choice becomes do very little to gain the trivial or find the motivation to get the things that matter. The motivation that you seek is in the story that you tell yourself about your desired outcome. If you don’t have it, then your story sucks!
The story has to be consistent, compelling and relevant daily in order to get you to act. For example, many people continue to smoke despite the impending health risks. The story that they have for smoking must be very strong while their quitting story must be weak. Since the story that you have is made up by you or at least approved by you, you also have the power to change it. The power is in your belief. If you believe that you need to lose 20 pounds before October 15th or you need to donate $100 to an anti-charity, you will (I did that). It was surprisingly simple once the story was in place. I didn’t change the story for anyone. The monetary amount was enough to make it compelling. It was an important part of each and every day. I’d made myself the main character in a success story that I wanted to see come true. That was enough.
So do you have a bad motivator? Tell yourself a different story about that important thing that you want. It’s the most important thing to get this right because you’re the main character in the movie of your life. Why in the world would you settle for a crappy script? Start small with the chapter of today then build on that success. Most likely the only person stopping you is you.
In most cases when a movie is made from a book, the general consensus is that the book is better. There are many reasons for this but the main one is that a book uses words that the reader must employ to create pictures in his mind. Books may be written in black and white but they exist in the world of imagination. The writer’s words are a map that reader uses to create a world without compromise. I love this medium because of its limitations being based only on the mind of the reader.
As I have mentioned before, I am also a huge movie guy. The experience is completely different because it happens in “real” time. The emotions caused by the combination of director, actors, scenery and etc. are much closer to the surface. Everyone in the room can have a simultaneous reaction to the sights and sounds on display. Movies inch closer toward reality because we are visual creatures.
The disappointment of the adapted book comes from expectation and compromise. The viewer wants to see the pictures from their head come to life on the screen. Movies have several limitations which cause compromises. If the viewer goes in with the expectation that the movie will be different, it leads to less disappointment and an appreciation for each in their own right. In all honesty they are two very different things.
Now the point.
We all have this war of Book vs. Movie going on inside of us. The book is our thoughts. The way that we envision that our life will go. The movie is the reality of how things actually go. In this situation, the same factors cause most of the upset: expectation and compromise. Your life will almost never match your mental picture perfectly. As soon as you add in other actors and their interpretations of the script, the movie is bound to stray. Finding your own balance of expectation and compromise is the way to be satisfied with the movie version of your mental book