What It Means

Do you know sometimes you can go most of your adult life focused on the wrong things, working hard toward a future that in the end will not be what you planned or expected. Never mind as you sit and contemplate where you are and what you have done, your dreams have not been fulfilled. You can break yourself, physically and emotionally for that pot of gold at the end of that proverbial rainbow and find nothing but pyrite. You can give everything worthwhile up, sacrifice to the pantheon and what you will have in the end will be rooms filled with the chaff of broken dreams. In a world that values the trappings of success above nearly all forms of decency and compassion, far too many of us have fallen victim to the sales job. Now we are learning, there are no ‘do overs,’ for our failures and regrets.

What do we do when we look at life through the prism of our values, ethics, and standards? Those pesky things that are foundational to who we are and where we come from. Do we first question these as they are not a genetic predisposition but rather cultural and familial. As we enter the wider world, we are challenged more often than not, especially if we come from a more traditional culture or family experience. Do we question ourselves, our beliefs, our parents, our faith, our very foundation as we make our way through the maze of often terrifying new experiences? Many do, while some cling to what we know in an attempt to stave off the changes we see around us. The bombardment of information, especially social norms and expectations that may be significantly different from what we know is enough to make our heads spin and our hearts stutter to a standstill.

When we are young, we are sure to at least try some new things, maybe spread our wings in a few new directions. Most of us are brave, wanting to test ourselves against the world. Many of us believe we are both infallible and indestructible. We have worldviews that do not allow for any opinion but our own and rarely allow for facts that do not align with our ‘truths.’ When we are young there is one truth that is nearly universal, we have an unearned arrogance.  

During the arc of our lives, we usually learn many things and most of us lose our arrogance along the way. We learn we are absolutely fallible, we make mistakes, we stumble, we fall down, and we are taught lesson after lesson about just how much we do not know. This is one thing that continues throughout our lives. Sometimes we need the proverbial kick in the ass, taking us down off our high horse but other times it is simply the cruelty of others who wish to see us fail. Still, you fall down, and you climb back up to your feet, learning the best lesson; you are fallible.

The next thing we learn as we step foot into the world? We are absolutely destructible and mortal. Sometimes we learn this through the loss of a beloved parent, or a friend. Other times it is someone within our immediate circle who is faced with catastrophic illness or injury shaking the foundation of our belief in our own indestructibility. Then there is that time we learn this terrible lesson by a close brush with our fragility, this lesson remains with us for the remainder of our years, we either become risk-averse or alternatively we become what is now known as adrenalin junkies. It is an important lesson to learn, our mortality put in perspective, our place in the world filtered down into more realistic terms, more digestible bites. Over time, there will be more masterclasses to embrace, more blows to our confidence and we will in most cases survive them to tell the stories to the next generation.

So, thinking about all of this, what does it really mean? We magically hit the world firing on all cylinders somewhere between 18 and 25 years old. We leave our parents’ protective nest and rush out to do grand things in a world waiting for us to announce our entrance, only to find there is no fanfare and no one really cares. We begin as dilettantes, so certain of ourselves and our personal greatness, so self-assured. Nothing can stop us; nothing can stand in our way. We pronounce, at every opportunity and with absolute certainty, our opinions as fact. We have no need for wisdom from those who have lived longer and done more. We are full of fight and ready for our march to the corner office, or wherever our ambitions are focused. We are insulted by the very suggestion that we might not be ready, or all the Gods forbid we may not know all we need to know.

We weep and rail at the unfairness of it all. The waiting and the hard work of it all, yet while we are doing that which we thought was so unfair and unnecessary something happens. We grow up, we learn, we mature, and we begin to see the reason and logic of it all. That arc between fresh into the world and “been there and done that” is long and in many cases hard. For too many of us, it is filled with heartbreak, failures, and regrets. Along the way, we learn, and we grow; we also try to pass on the wisdom we gathered and the things we know don’t change from generation to generation. No matter where you come from, no matter who you are, no matter your cultural or familial beginnings, some things are truly foundational, even universal.

  • Treat people the way you want to be treated, kindness and compassion never grow old.
  • Ethics and honesty in business and your personal life will always be the best strategy.
  • Put people before things, before money, before your work.
  • Never forget to tell people you love them; they won’t be there forever, and you may not get another opportunity.
  • If you have the chance to lift up another person, do it.

So simple, yet so many of us have a difficult time getting there. In today’s world of greed, myopic selfishness, curated ignorance, and the ongoing attempt to undermine core values as ‘weak’. We tout our faith, religion, and the Sunday-Go-To-Church faithful are quick to beat the drum of their godliness and goodness. Meanwhile, they are busily tearing out the heart of future generations, their children are becoming monstrous, and communities are disintegrating into viciousness, celebrating ignorance over learning, and meanness over compassion.

So, what do we do? We focus on what we can do to make it better and hope time will make a difference. Some of us, well some of us weep at the time we lost being arrogant shits when we still had the time and energy to truly make a difference in the world.

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