Lately the 80s movie classic Teen Wolf (one day you will recognize its genius) has been airing on cable, and I keep stumbling on the scene where slacker basketball coach Bobby Finstock pulls his star player Scott Howard aside for a word or two of advice. Finstock tells him,
"There are three rules that I live by:
never get less than twelve hours sleep;
never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city;
and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body.
Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese."
I think it's incredibly cool to have this kind of a list on demand and at your fingertips, and the ecclectic nature of his rules is just...well...awesome.
So, Baelyn [updated: & Bardeaux] - probably since I just turned 40 [updated: almost 49!] and feel reflective, definitely because I want to be a good Dad, and absolutely because I want to be as cool as Bobby Finstock - I decided to make you a list of my own.
Of course, my wisdom at this point is not nearly as developed as Finstock's, so I reserve the right to update my list until such time as it feels appropriately wise, or sage, or simply complete (perhaps when I can narrow it to only three?)
Also, my rules are clearly not as colorful as his...but then again, unless you move to Vegas at some stage in your life, mine will probably have more practical value.
Regardless, this was a valuable exercise for me, and I hope one day you can appreciate it too.
In random order...
Selected Meaningful Quotes, Must Reads, Must Sees, and Practical Rules for Living.
Resist the temptation to "sell out" (career-wise) for as long as you possibly can. But chances are, you won’t be able to resist forever. That's ok: money, after all, buys time. (And nothing is more valuable than the time to do what you want.) But while you are able, there is also something to be said for the theory of "pursue what you love, and the money will follow." There is no guarantee, but it just might.
Stand up for yourself: Don’t take crap from anyone, and it’s ok to recognize that sometimes bad people have it coming to them if they push too far. But also be as kind and as generous as you can; and especially to taxi drivers, janitors, waiters/waitresses, and the like. Don't assume that you were born to be served by others. Appreciate their efforts and their honest day's work.
Study Sun Tzu and understand that the battle is won or lost before it is ever fought. There is no substitution for preparation. Also consider Muhammad Ali’s colorful spin on it: The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights. Extending further into Sun Tzu's argument, I would also offer that winning is great, but it’s nothing compared to the absolute calm – yet strangely euphoric – feeling of knowing you will win before it happens; of saying to yourself “I got this” or “this is my moment” or “this race/game/match/point is already won.” Of course, to ever feel that way – especially under the intense pressure of the moment and before the victory is actually secured – you will have to have done hours and hours of work to “earn” that confidence and certainty. But it’s worth it. There is no better feeling than “I have already won this, this is my time…and no one here but me knows it yet.” Yes, in my opinion, that feeling is better than actually winning. And it’s certainly more rare.
Be wary of the “grass is always greener” trap. It’s tempting. But instead, develop the understanding that happiness is not about getting what you want…it’s about still wanting what you already have.
Words should count for something, however, so choose them wisely. Also, don't be passive aggressive: have the courage to plainly speak your mind.
In fact, John F. Kennedy made note of a similar concept in a speech at Amherst College - his last public appearance before his assassination, actually - in October 1963: "The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation’s greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us."
As a natural follow-up to the previous thought...Resist the temptation to do what everyone else is doing. Taking a moment to stop and think is always worth it.
But when you are good at something, resist the temptation to show off or boast. As Bruce Lee noted in Enter the Dragon (see first 25 seconds below): “Boards don't hit back.”
Similarly, get at least 8 hours sleep as often as possible…but don't waste too many mornings by sleeping in.
Of course, also don't forget that the early bird does sometimes get the worm, but it's the second mouse that gets the cheese.
Whenever you are on the fence of whether or not to roll out of bed for that morning workout, always go for it. You will never regret the post-workout satisfaction and endorphin high. Go!
Watch The Wire. Like, immediately. You will dig Seasons 1 and 2 but make sure you stick with it through some dry patches...because they are merely a set-up and a preface to the greatness that is Season 3. It’s only the best television show ever created and a seminal work on the slow crumbling of the American Empire from the inside (urban centers) out. And Season 3 is the pinnacle of the accomplishment. Face it, we almost named you Bodie.
1) The Wire*2) Band of Brothers* (mini-series)3) Breaking Bad*4) House of Cards (except the last season)5) Game of Thrones*6) The Deuce*
*interesting that my favorites correlate with an interesting construct: the TV show that knows it's full story, it's beginning and end, before it's even filmed. For example, David Simon always said The Wire was a "book with 60 chapters...12 shows x 5 seasons." That limited arc tends to create a tight storyline and avoids the obvious pitfalls (Fonzie jumping the shark) of TV shows that get more and more ridiculous just to maintain viewership, banking on the dramatic and the absurd rather than a tight storyline.
Of course, I could make an entirely separate list for the 80's and the excitement of TV as a kid, even with only 4 channels! But I'd have to highlight The Greatest American Hero, Buck Rogers, The Six Million Dollar Man, Dukes of Hazzard, Magnum PI, and Saturday morning WWF as my favorites then. Along with Three Stooges reruns and vintage Bugs Bunny...
Read David Foster Wallace’s This is Water. Recognize his brilliance and his honesty. See and understand the "water" all around you, and learn how to navigate it. In particular, try to see yourself as something other than the center of the universe. Make the effort to include someone else's perspective in your world view. Said another way, seek first to understand, before you would be understood.
Similarly, pay homage to the Mark Twain quote Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime. I will be sad to see you go one day, but I will also rejoice in your pursuit of life’s opportunities. Life is in the living. Be a doer, not a watcher. Go and be…don’t stay and wish.