Friday, August 6, 2010


Someone once asked me what i was good at...

"The more I practice, the luckier I get." - Gary Player - golfer.

So I was sitting on the couch.

It must have been 25 years ago. And there I was sitting there. In front of me was, as always, a TV. I probably watched 5 hours of tv every day from 3 years old to my early 20s. Being fairly introverted I watched to get away from people.

On the tv was some pre-game show for an NFL football game. The Giants need to blah blah today if they hope to beat the Eagles because the Eagles can blah blah blah better than anyone... All very interesting.

"Now, let's go down to the field and join Mark."
"Thanks Jack, as you can see, I am down here on the field. The players are warming up and maybe we can get a quick interview with one of them."
Mark walks on the field towards some guy doing leg stretches.
"Here is the newest running back for the Giants..."
Mark stuffs a microphone into the guys face.

I am slunched on the couch, thinking I know just about all there is to know about pre-game 30 second interviews with guys who have the IQ of a springer spaniel... "Just glad to be here, one game at a time, thanks mom, thanks JC, hope to contribute, we play a really good team today."

The guy looks up, answers a few questions like I thought he would... something about glad to be there or something. And the reporter is just about to walk off. And the guy gently grabs the microphone. And he turns away from the reporter and looks right into the camera. Right at me. And says something I will never ever forget: "Limitations are largely a matter of habit and conventional thinking." The reporter is staring at him with a surprised look. And the guy turns to him. And says with absolute conviction. "And, it's VERY important that you remember this." Then he turns back to stretching his legs out.

"Again." - Herb Brooks, hockey coach.

Got off the couch. Walked in a circle. Not much else all that interesting happened that day. Other than I thought over and over about it. Habit. You *are* what you repeatedly do. And what was it that I was? A guy on a couch. Within a short time of that day M*A*S*H had their last ever episode. I remember watching it and feeling kinda sad that it was over and that everyone was now gone. I think everyone in the world watched that last show. I decided right then not to watch TV anymore. And I haven't. Never saw a Sienfield, or a Simpsons or a South Park or any of the other shows on. Lost, Dancing, American Idle - no clue at all about any of it. I decided ( like fish vegetarians ) that I could watch sports. So I have watched a lot of that over the last 25 years. Not telling you guys this for any reason other than I freed up about 30 hours a week. But the big impact wasn't the TV time. It was the thought that my limits were as the guy said due to habit and conventional thinking.

What could I do? Looking around. Shrug. What looks like fun? Computers looked like fun... so I wrote programs for a living. Spock even played chess against a computer. Chess! Chess is fun too. Run around and see stuff. So I went to Europe and lived in Africa. Climbed mt. K and played in the snow on the equator. Wondered what it would be like to build a house. So I built one myself. Wired it, plumbed, framed it, installed the duct work and the geothermal heating system. Was about to buy the cabinets but figured what the heck, I can learn how to make them. Took a few months. Laid the flooring and did all the trim work from rough wood, poured the cement, dug holes and filled holes. ( filling holes is not as hard as you would think it to be ) Took an IQ test and got into Prometheus. Met a supergenius, fell in love and married her. Learned to play guitar and bass and played for years in a band. Got good at golf and softball, learned to skate and play ice hockey. Bought a mountain bike and fell in love with the forest. Ah, the forest in the fall! the dry leaves rustle and whoosh behind you and you dont know if its the last ride of the year and you just want to live forever. Did adventure races. Doing my first ironman triathlon in 3 weeks. Been a professional model. Tracked and found wild lions on foot with no weapons. Jumped out of airplanes and laughed over and over at how incredibly awesome life is.

"Such amazing dreams and horrible nightmares." - Carl Sagan. Science weasel.

I looked for that spark. That jump in people. All my life I looked. And if you are willing to look you can see it sometimes out of the corner of your eye. Just a quick st. elmos fire flash of green. But you have to be patient beyond all fucking common sense. In a huge bar full of people we are only as smart as the dumbest person in the room. But... there, in the corner of your eye, in the pinched back crawly edge of your ear you hear it. Something... said with thought and passion. And it's the grabbing of that. That makes the whole of the waiting worth living for.

"It never gets any easier, I just get faster." - Greg Lemond, cyclist.

So, what do I feel I have gotten good at - and how did it affect me... I thought about this a long time. I am good at many things. Really good at a couple. Not sure I am great at anything. And so I was stuck thinking of things that marked some change. But I was missing the whole picture. :-) And so I would say that what I became really good at, was, living itself. Just that. Grabbing the fucker and squeezing, squeezing it. Taste as much as I can. Incredible disasters and awesome victories. Spinning and falling and shredding my body and more painfully my mind over it. Getting up. Again. Again. Again. Habit and conventional thinking. And it is beyond all words *staggeringly* important that you remember that.

Some people get nicknames, others get a stamping. "John the good looking guy." "Lisa the athlete." I never did get a nickname. But people always tell me how lucky I am.

The more I practice, the luckier I get.


  1. Thanks for this amazing post -- this is my favourite of yours (so far!). :) :)

    A few weeks ago, my coach lent me a book -- "Slaying the Dragon" by Michael Johnson. She warned me there were parts I might find cheesy but that there was some good stuff in it.

    Wasn't cheesy at all -- I am past the point in life where I need to ridicule things that make me uncomfortable. I LIKE TO GET THE MESSAGE. :) :) Your post reminds me very much of this book.

    I'll be re-reading this post in the future! Thanks! :) :) :)

  2. this was awesome! I should have reached outside my own world and looked into yours while I was crossing - this was incredible - i HEAR you! Thanks so much for all your comments that kept me going - seriously. Amazing that your event is just around the corner - I'll be cheering you guys on!!