In case you missed my last two articles (cue gasps of incredulous disbelief from me this time… How dare you not immediately flip to the Farm Life section? Where’s your heart?), let’s recap. Recently, I found myself making a list for how I want to live my life, and more importantly, the lessons I want to pass on to my children. In between my outrageous outbursts and attempts to lock them in a broom closet (kidding, people… it’s more like a large shed), I find myself wanting to be a better person. Part One and Part Two covered the following topics: have faith, be intelligent, be humble, be kind and compassionate and be courageous. Here’s Part Three. For those of you already yawning and making a move to flip the page, don’t you dare. Aren’t you listening? Be courageous. Be kind. Have faith. It’ll all be over soon.
Earn your keep… and have fun doing it
The secret to being remarkable and standing out in a crowd is to enjoy what you do, even if it isn’t your dream job. Focus on the task at hand. Be present. People who are exceptionally good at what they do make everyone around them feel better. Egos are dropped and work gets done. Work hard and have fun doing it. After all, no one really cares if you don’t want to be there. That’s your choice, not their baggage. And remember, you’re trading your time for money. That’s all it is. It’s extremely important you remember this equation. At the end of each week, you should ask yourself this — do I owe work anything or do they owe me? The answer should be no. You gave it your all in the time you were meant to be there. If you take yourself too seriously, then you’re bound to lose something in the end.
Most importantly, never make the mistake of confusing your net worth with the numbers in a bank account. I’ve yet to see a funeral hearse pulling a U-Haul (but promise to let you know if I ever do).
And now for a fable about a nasty little pony named Sandy. No, wait a minute… it’s a true story. Way back when, my mom enrolled me in Pony Club. This was likely an attempt to bring some culture into my life and keep me out of trouble. It would make sense then, that I hated it. My older sister had this beautiful thoroughbred horse that looked like a mythical creature out of some movie, and I was saddled with Satan, pardon me, Sandy, a Shetland pony who stood about seven apples high. One day, just after brushing the little beast to a high-gloss shine, I was leading him out to the pasture. It was then that my brother came roaring onto the yard in the combine. Unfortunately, at that very moment, I was in complete defiance of the cardinal rule of Pony Club: NEVER EVER hold on to the halter, always hold the rope (which presumably you have tied to the halter). This will give you a chance to let go should something happen. Well, something did indeed happen. Sandy went completely ape sh** at the sound of the combine and took off like his tail was on fire. My sweaty wee hand instinctively grabbed hold of that halter and held on for dear life. As Darwin suggested, it comes down to survival of the fittest. In this case, Sandy won the evolutionary race. They found me just outside the pasture gate, where that terror must have stopped just long enough for my carcass to drop.
My face was one giant scab. I was horrified. As my mom described it: “You’ll be fine. Your face was just dragging on the road for a bit.” A bit? I had gravel shards wedged into my forehead, nose, cheeks, lips and chin. It took months for the whole mess to clear up. And don’t think for a moment that having a scab for a face was a good enough excuse to hide out in my room. Hell, no. My mom told me to quit acting like I’d lost an arm or something. She even made me continue to participate in the circuit of local fairs that summer, where I ungraciously collected a plethora of fifth-place mercy ribbons. (See Exhibit A. Yes, that’s a forced smile. The scabs on my nose, lips and chin prevented my grin from stretching any farther. I’m not entirely certain if that’s a large scab on my forehead, or an awkward attempt at bangs. Let’s go with scab.)
As a child, that was a tough lesson in perseverance. No matter how bad you think your situation is, you still have to get dressed and show up for the game. Don’t expect to get results without being willing to work hard for something. You want to know the secret to getting lots of stuff done? Get lots of stuff done. To do this, be diligent about deciding what requires your full artillery of anal tendencies, and what does not. Some things require complete focus, others don’t. If you’re doing your books, then yes, spend some extra time on it. Get a little crazy and double-check it. But baking that pie for the local charity event? Really, as long as it’s edible. Just remember the saying, it’s not so much how busy you are, but what you’re busy doing. After all, the bee gets praised, the mosquito swatted.
Follow your dreams… especially the ones others think are impossible
Dream big. And then go out there and get it. What the heck are you waiting for? Someone to do it for you? Yeah, let me know how that goes. I want to share an excerpt from the commencement address that the late Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, gave to a graduating class in 2005. He said:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead some day is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart and intuition… they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
How cool is that? Rest in peace, Steve Jobs. You were one of the greats. †