“Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all." - Nathan W. Morris
Some of us are spectators in life. We don’t pursue that passion that’s pulling at us, pulsating just under the surface of our skin. Instead, we settle into boring, unfulfilling jobs and relationships. We seek out safe places to hide. Some of us are those kids who sat in the back of the room in high school. Somewhere we learned that volunteering or even speaking up was not cool, so we politely kept our ideas and our excitement to ourselves. Even now, we shield ourselves in life. The minute we share something about ourselves with even our closest friends, we barracade our revelations behind excuses, effectively and preemptively diluting their responses. We seek out the good seats so we can share proximity to the action without ever having to act. We choose, instead to mooch off of the energy and excitement of someone else’s daring adventure into vulnerability. We think we’re being clever, but fate is on to us.
Initially, we start out very excited and ready to contribute. Most of us are ready to bring more to the table than we actually take from it, fully prepared to leave our mark. But then something happens that makes us back off of our exuberance. Something comes to steal that childlike innocence and open mindedness and we morph, slowly, subtly into the way things actually are. We settle into “realism”.
“Keeping it real,” as my children mutter way too often for my taste, is how the new generation describes itself as being Realists. This is, to me, the classic of all cop outs because it covers a multitude of beliefs, effort, faith and desires to be different, or to be better, or even to strive. Apparently, being a Realist means not trying or giving up shortly after you start. It means hedging your bets, so as not to waste time with stupid stuff like hopes and dreams or possibilities that, to the naked eye, seem out of reach. We embrace, defend and to some extent, celebrate our self imposed limits by “keeping in real.”
…and that’s just plain dumb.
I have had to check myself in the past from time to time when I felt myself easing away from my dreams. I’ve stood at the crest of my possibilities and gazed across at the goals I’d like to accomplish and if I’m being completely honest, there were and still are times when that span seems too great to clear in one leap. I would talk myself out of even trying and I would justify my decision by focusing on what it would cost me if I failed. What I didn’t realize until recently is what not trying was costing me. I had this whole “keeping it real” thing all wrong. Being real with one’s self should mean that we see most things, or at the very least, what we desire to achieve, as possible.
Unfortunately, our actions and decisions as parents bear fruit and I began to notice my sons, ranging in ages from twenty to five, becoming less competitive and withdrawing from opportunities to interact with their peers. They were using my excuses to avoid challenges and social opportunities. This revelation changed me.
It’s a tough pill to swallow when you realize that you don’t inspire your children the way you want to.
I was faced with a choice; I could continue to “keep it real” in front of my boys or let them see the real me. I could let them see dear old Dad pursue his dreams and sometimes fall short. As important as I think it is for sons to see their Fathers win in life, I now realize the equal importance of sharing with them the lessons that come with not reaching a goal. I won’t classify it as failure because to me, there’s no such thing as failure if you’re trying. It’s my responsibility to teach them the lessons that I owe them as men that will one day raise my grandchildren. I need to inspire them to strive….and win….and try and try and try again.