I truly love this quote and it’s relevance can’t be underestimated or undervalued. I’ve never been a big fan of the saying (often as some sort of comfort to soothe failed engagements): “at least you tried your best.” I think the matter of “trying” is too often confused with the level of “activity”, not the integrity behind the efforts employed. I mean we confuse victory as the precise assessment of what we put forth when we know in certain instances, being victorious may not call upon our best depending on the quality of our competitors.
So how do we know if we “brought our best” to a challenge. Again, sometimes it’s more difficult to ascertain when the result is triumph but at least we know that our “best” was superlatively better than whoever we faced and our sense of satisfaction, or lack thereof, will rest on our view of what we did to prove it.
But the true measure of what we brought to the game is revealed through our losses (and they should be few) by the appearance of both combatants and utter confusion by the casual observers about who got the worst in their warfare. By that evaluation, we can be assured that our “best” may have fallen short, at least this time, but it was good enough to let our challenger know he was one punch away from being on the receiving end of defeat and wondering if it’s worth another engagement in a rematch.
So “trying your best” is certainly a good starting point but it’s an empty effort if you leave behind the characteristics and quality of the best within you, both intrinsically and what has been exquisitely developed through your work over time, that must be brought when the moment calls for its superb application. Simply put, you’ll know if you’ve “brought your best” when afterwords there’s not one element of your mental, emotional, and physically being untapped leaving you silently applauding yourself, not only for the result achieved but also by how little you saved of yourself to capture it so you’re at the point of being almost incapable of standing upright to enjoy it!
(A Favorite I Wrote In 2015 To Jason As He Turns A Year Older Today – It Seems The Message Has More Meaning Each Year He Grows)
“As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery… we have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness.” – Dalai Lama
Jason because I’m your Dad, I’m going to leave this for you to think about because it took me a lot longer to put into consistent practice. The easiest decisions we make for ourselves are either the most obvious or convenient. Oftentimes the hardest decisions are the ones that are best for ourselves because of not only what we gain from them, but the things and people that we give up or are left by the rode side on the way to the destination we want to move towards. We are strengthened if we exercise kindness for ourselves and find the inner peace that are the most important and basic components that will get us towards where we hope to end up. I think the answer doesn’t really change to the questions that continue to confront us in either our minds or God’s eyes and His role I believe is solely to give us additional clarity and strength to make those difficult decisions. Also the results don’t change other than to grow more problematic when we end up delaying them for the sake of ease, convenience, or avoidance of the inevitable confrontation. You are the only one who can provide the greatest gifts to and for YOU as you get older because the situations and circumstances are fading from my and Mom’s control but never our support.
Read this again: “In reflecting on the times of my life, it occurs to me that the difficult, arduous experiences always pass, or at least wane to a tolerable level. On the other hand, thankfully, the positive, uplifting aspects of my life’s journey seem to hold strong and steady throughout, as long as I appreciate and nurture them.” What we think we lose while we are young coupled with the importance we apply to them will fade in time sooner when you’re younger, and the other things that fill those gaps will make us question why we didn’t act sooner!
I’m no genius but I can tell you that there has not been one thing I’ve lost in the past, including my parents, where that void wasn’t eventually filled somehow and somewhere to give me something that would allow me to continue to see a future full of optimism. I’m not just talking about the addition of you and Christian in my life, but all things including what I surprisingly discovered along the way while recovering from an injury where I didn’t expect to learn so much from. It’s funny how things just worked out that way from the most unorthodox circumstances and with it, the peace I was seeking slowly settled within my soul where it could be best served.
“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” – William Pollard
I was thinking (yes again) about the difficulty of accepting not only the consequences of our actions but of the circumstances and situations surrounding them. During our early upbringing we were somewhat led to believe in the concept of a perfect and utopian society and existence. I think it was meant to fuel our early belief that anything was possible and that we can overcome any obstacle. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a laudable approach and I do believe that everything is achievable until proven otherwise but the bigger questions are when we really reach that point and who defines it?
As we experience and encounter more, we are faced with the challenge of alterations to our previous plans. What to do? Nothing if that’s what you accept as the final product of your efforts. Maybe that’s good enough for some who find a morbid satisfaction with the inequality of fate. Better to deflect blame through inaction than have to strain to uncover how much additional control we can exercise when faced with what may just be temporary setback.
We’re all going to get answers to what we ask and strive for and how we interpret them is fundamental to their achievement or sadly, our disregard. When we receive a “no” initially and accept it as the final response, maybe we didn’t understand that the answer was only “not yet”! “Failure” is often accepted when we fail to interpret it as we’re “a bit closer” or “almost there”! “Going as far as we can go” is often confused with “going as far as we’ll try”! I guess what we learn (or may never know) about ourselves is what we can still sense through complete darkness and silence.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to realizing when you’ve reached the end of a road. So rare is it that the route that we meticulously planned out ends up traveled along through its precise coordinates. But why do so many end a journey when a road is blocked requiring only a change in directions? Our compass may remain pointed in the same direction but it’s foolish to think that there will never be detours and delays. It doesn’t mean we don’t press on, or continually attempt to push immovable obstacles – that’s a waist of energy and painful. We just need to exercise some ingenuity and creativity to figure out how to move around them to get towards the future we’ve designed.
I remember something I was told about “judgment day” when a man was in front of Saint Peter and judged to be unworthy of entering Heaven. As the door was closed and the man dejectedly began to walk away, he heard a woman’s voice and as he looked down away from the door, the Virgin Mary had opened a nearby window allowing him to enter into God’s kingdom!
I’ve always remembered that story to remind me that when we feel we’ve lost hope, it does not mean all hope is lost! If needing shelter while on the way to our destination and a door is closed, it doesn’t mean it’s locked. If locked, at least knock because someone may be home to let you in. If still no answer, then go to another door or window and knock because if someone is home, there’s a chance they’ll help. If they don’t or still no answer, there’s rumor of a poor couple who found shelter in a manger and gave birth to a child that changed the world!
So be among the gifted to recognize that change is just part of our existence and every wrong calculation just requires reexamination of the equation. We all make poor or unfortunate choices but I only regret the following mistakes: 1) those that hurt others; 2) those that I didn’t learn from; and 3) those that caused me to quit because I didn’t readjust my thinking to pursue what still could have been achieved had I just tried differently.
So maybe nothing is really lost until we stop searching until the last sunrise has passed out of our final vision. Maybe the answers will be different than hoped for but then again, what did we surprisingly discover and lovingly cherish about ourselves and our lives? What I find new about me each day makes me hopeful that I may have another to get closer to what I wish for, regardless of how it ultimately turns out.
(I saw a documentary today about Coach Valvano and it seemed more than appropriate to re-post these thoughts I shared before about this marvelous man and his legacy.)
“When you have a dream and you love each other and keep believing in a dream, you can accomplish miracles!” – Jim Valvano talking about the 1983 North Carolina Championship Basketball Team
It’s no secret that I’m a diehard fan of Coach “V” as one would surmise from my repeated use of the quotes from and references to him. Maybe one would think it’s because I was witness to the sports miracle that was accomplished when he led his 1983 NC State basketball team on the most unlikely and magical run to the NCAA tournament finals where they upset a vastly more talented Houston team (two future NBA hall of gamers) in the greatest upset in tournament history.
Now come on, it’s just sports which certainly produces so many amazing storylines and admittedly, this one is certainly more memorable by how it remains as part of our sport’s culture to this day as an inspiration to underdogs and afterthoughts in not just sports, but all areas of society. But sports moments are just that, snapshots of a particular portal of competitive endeavors that we get reminded of, generally when the appropriate circumstances warrants its introduction into our psyche in some manner and degree.
Still in its overall affect, did it inspire me to change the way I approach life? Well, I am certain it did in the lessons I’ve used to guide and motivate my children when challenged and by extension, what I’m authoring now. Or, did it help to improve the treatment of something like cancer for countless patients afflicted with the disease? Well we know it did by the growth and contributions of the “Jimmy V Foundation” that he created after his life was ruthlessly assaulted, and before it was taken, by cancer. But here’s what has to be recognized: had that 1983 sports storyline not been created, it’s likely the birth of the “legend” and fame of “Coach V” would not have emerged to give birth to his organization when it was established and its astronautical growth thereafter. That foundation came about too late to save his life or my parents lives, but in a miraculous twist to his legacy, the byproduct of its research and the evolution of cancer treatment saved his daughter’s life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer years later.
I ponder this quote by Thurl Bailey, a player from that 1983 team, in reflecting back on his former coach as one of the most beautiful expressions of praise that any man could ever hope to be described or remembered for by those who reflect upon their knowledge of that existence. “Everything he accomplished and everything he was as a person is the essence of the man!”. If only I should be so fortunate to be honored with similar accounting of my days here in my particular universe but hey, I’m still making a conscious effort and I’m constantly an evolving work in progress.
So in my mind it’s about the collective and enduring power of the man who turned out to be more than just a basketball coach beyond that victory in 1983. It’s exponentially about his words, the way he lived, the people he touched and inspired, and his final acts before he died that profoundly separated himself to be among the upper echelon of immensely extraordinary humans that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.
Now back to “Coach V’s” influence; you have to remember that he was diagnosed with terminal cancer leading to an abundance of tumors that spread throughout his body but still his final goal remained to his dying day, as reflected in a note he wrote to himself that was accidentally found by his wife in the pocket of his dry cleaning was, to “beat cancer”! He did that, maybe not in his own individual quest but for the thousands of others he impacted through the man he was, whose lives he affected during his lifetime, and whose lives he SAVED through the work of the “V Foundation” including his daughter as noted above. I mean it’s one thing to give birth to a child but what greater accomplishment can be achieved by a parent than being personally responsible for saving his/her physical life and in a way, gifting them with another?
What a legacy (or maybe that’s just me)! I can say I was blessed to watch that championship game and the ones that were televised during that magical run when I was so much younger and not insulated from its impact, due to the abundance of information available these days that leads to an overindulgence of stimulation that can negate our awareness of what’s happening right in front of our eyes. But goodness gracious sakes alive, I’m so much older and I needed someone like “Coach V” back then and still need my memory of him morphing into something greater than that one tournament to keep my eyes on the prizes that continue to happen in front of these eyes! Otherwise I might have gone crazy or emotionally diluted by too many of the things introduced in my life that could have overwhelmed that vision.
I may f’ing hate cancer for taking both my parents but my hope and faith in life’s possibilities, probabilities, and likelihoods is still strong by how they fought it, and through “Coach V’s” efforts that have carried on well beyond each of their passings, because I’m still here to better my existence to honor them. It’s because of my hope and faith in most things that I still battle to garner every ounce I can from the things that feed my optimism for each day I have been given while I step over or around the pratfalls that produce disillusion and negativity because, they too often introduce themselves to try to steal life’s basic, simple, elegance that I choose to believe in.
So God gave me another day to persevere in how I want to live it and I thank Him because it allows me to build on “the essence of the man” I want to be. A work in progress? Yep, but my destiny at least has a better direction from those that have and continue to inspire me like my parents, “Coach V”, and anyone who makes a contribution towards whatever remarkable conclusion I systematically strive to achieve.
So I’ll end with one last quote because it’s a favorite and one I use as a reminder of how I want to see what’s ahead of me: “We will never have a perfect world, but it’s not romantic or naive to work toward a better one.” – Steven Pinker