Hairy Animals

I pride myself on my physical fitness. It’s one of the few things in life that I’ve truly earned, not just inherited.

Fitness wins competitions. Talent only matters for the 1% of competitors at the highest level.

In the NBA, or NCAA basketball, every player has peak physical conditioning. This means that the fitness “playing field” is actually quite level. Only after fitness becomes a non issue, do skill and focus become the game changers. The best teams have the most talent and the most drive.

But if you yank two Joe Bobbys off the street, and you put them in a game of one-on-one against each other… Or maybe you have them race 500 meters… Or maybe swim across a pond… Or teach them any new game: rugby, soccer, baseball, anything…

The winner is the fittest person. Not the most skilled, because both have low skill levels, but the person who can breath steady the longest.

Somebody once said that if your life has gone to shit, if you’ve really hit rock bottom and don’t know which way is UP – then the first thing to do is go to the gym. (I hate gyms and would never recommend them, but it’s still a good quote.)

This is important because if 20 people go to a job interview. If 20 people take a piano class. If 20 people learn to dance. If 20 people learn how to invest money. If 20 people fall into loving relationships…

The physically fit people always have an advantage.

Life will drag you across the concrete by your pinky toe one day, and when that day comes, you want to have all the advantages you can get. You want cookies in your lunchbox, not rocks.

The skills above don’t require you to run five miles or throw a rubber ball around. But they do require that you sleep well, eat well, show up on time, think clearly, take criticism, give criticism, stand your ground, follow through, negotiate with honesty, speak clearly, meet goals, compensate, judge a situation objectively, and relax when it’s time to relax.

 

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Gratitude is a Slimy Salmon

pool time

Grateful people are handsome and lucky, but ungrateful people walk around feeling soggy like rotten peaches. Grateful people know they won the lottery when they got accidentally born into the weird and wonderful movie of life. But ungrateful people can’t see past their noses, they are the punching bags of the mean-spirited universe.

Really what I want to do is float through life in a never-ending, lazy river of gratitude. The problem is that gratitude is slippery.

After walking 100 miles and sleeping in a tent for four nights, you can be damn sure that I’m grateful for a roof and my king size bed. That first night home, my gratitude is a roaring fire. But how many nights can I spend in my big comfy bed before my gratitude wick burns down to a stub? 30 days? A year?

COMFORT = BEING ASLEEP. I heard this equation from one of my favorite podcasters. Now the idea is lodged between my ears, like when a little kid pushes his head through the space between two porch railings and then, when he tries to back out of it…

All the things we associate with comfort also lead to sleep: shelter, warm food, sofas and beds. The opposite end of the spectrum is awakeness, chattering your teeth in the cold of the night.

When I travel I suddenly want to smoke cigarettes. I want to buy them and keep them in my chest pocket and walk around smoking them. Because the act of traveling shakes me by the shoulders and slaps me into a new state of awareness. Suddenly I’m grateful for a tiny cup of espresso, a clean shirt, and an internet connection. A conversation with a stranger who could’ve easily been an ass but was kind instead.

Meanwhile, consumer culture is busy selling me comfort through the motivating principle of fear:

“What if you ram your Ford Taurus into a pine tree? Don’t you want the highest level of health/auto/life insurance? And don’t you need an iron gate surrounding your house while you’re at it? What if you drop your phone into an angry pit of scorpions, shouldn’t you have this adamantium plus also waterproof phone case, you know, just in case?”

I’m hesitant to buy because I have a hunch that comfort is the sneaky assassin of gratitude. I’m sorry but I’m just not afraid of lightning strikes or impromptu kidnappings or credit card theft.

And while I’m busy watching all of the news reports that tell me, “don’t travel out into that dangerous world,” comfort the silent killer is creeping up behind me with a pillow in his hands.