David Brooks

The mid-life crisis myth

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porsche-826385_640The Middle-Age Surge written by columnist, David Brooks, is a fabulous expose on what it really means to be living in ones “middle ages.” He reviews the book, Life Reimagined, by Barbara Bradley Hagerty while also proposing that the idea of mid-life crisis is truly a myth that many don’t see as being applicable to them. I mean seriously, people, how many friends or coworkers of yours purchased a zippy sports car when they hit their mid-40s or later?

Many years ago I briefly dated a guy who drove a gold-colored early model Porsche. On my third date with him, I said, “You know what they say about guys who drive Porsches, don’t you?” His response was nowhere near the statement I was going to provide that centered around over-compensation for short-comings. He said, “Yeah,  they have lots of money.”

Not even close.

Anyway, Mr. Brooks quotes theologian Karl Barth who described midlife in this manner:

The sowing is behind; now is the time to reap. The run has been taken; now is the time to leap. Preparation has been made; now is the time for the venture of the work itself.

Two old ladies causing troubleI can unabashedly declare that I can look back on my life with a more refined foundation of wisdom;  I can move forward, not haphazardly, but with focus and intent. I know what’s important to accomplish before my time on this earth comes to an end, and I’m not going to let anything get in the way of my doing so. (So watch out publishers, I’m knocking on your doors!)

The people who find meaning at this stage often realize the way up is down. They get off that supervisor’s perch and put themselves in direct contact with the people they can help the most. They accept that certain glorious youthful dreams won’t be realized, but other, more relational jobs turn out to be more fulfilling.

One of the conclusions the columnist comes to is that the mature mid-life folks “are less likely, given all the judgments that have been made, to care about what other people think.”

And that describes me to a T.

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It is never wrong to do good

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You’ll never be faulted for doing your best.

Regardless of the outcome, always fall back on doing something for the common good.

I’m currently reading The Road to Character, a book by columnist and political pundit, David Brooks. I recently watched an interview of his with Oprah Winfrey and was so impressed with the subject matter, I purchased the book he was promoting.

Mr. Brooks talks and writes about the difference between Adam I and Adam II, the latter being the person who has lived a eulogy life, not the resume life of Adam I. You’ll need to read the book to understand the full contextual meaning, but what follows is just one of many elements that resounded with me. I provide this excerpt verbatim:

Wooden people assistanceWhen a person gives a poor man shoes, does he do it for the poor man or for God? He should do it for God …

The poor will often be ungrateful, and you will lose heart if you rely on immediate emotional rewards for your work. But if you do it for God, you will never grow discouraged.

A person with a deep vocation is not dependent on constant positive reinforcement. The job doesn’t have to pay off every month, or every year.

The person thus called is performing a task because it is intrinsically good, not for what it produces.

You see, we’re not responsible for the outcome. Most of the time, we’ll never witness how our good deeds helped another person. If our motivation was only to observe first-hand the benefits such deeds might produce, we’d stop doing good in short order. We must exercise faith and hope that our actions are not wasted.

Your ability to discern your vocation depends on the condition of your eyes and ears, whether they are sensitive enough to understand the assignment your context is giving you. As the Jewish Mishnah puts it, “It’s not your obligation to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from beginning it.”

All that we do with a clear conscience is good. We must not refrain from standing up and stepping forward. The good we do may be the beginning of a widespread process of well-being for others, or it may be the finishing touches on that which was started some time before you came into the picture.

It’s never too late to do good. Why resolutionize your intentions until next year? Start now.

 See also: Your positive imprint on mankind, Do little rather than nothing, Valuable acts of kindness, Positive community activism

It takes courage to be passionate

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board-939244_640David Brooks’ article, Lady Gaga and the life of passion, speaks of putting ourselves out there for something for which we are passionate.

All that is needed for a person to conclude that Lady Gaga puts herself out there is to watch just one of her performances or appearances at awards shows. She wore a meat dress at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. Outsiders like ourselves look at such a display and might think unkind thoughts about a person who is extremely passionate about her craft.

For most of us, putting ourselves out there means singing at the top of our lungs in the shower or car where no one can hear us. Or perhaps our definition of being out there means matching a floral print top with checked shorts when on vacation where no one knows us.

David Brooks’ article covers the passion involved when we’re courageous enough to follow our dreams, dreams portrayed in this manner by Lady Gaga:

I suppose that I didn’t know what I would become, but I always wanted to be extremely brave and I wanted to be a constant reminder to the universe of what passion looks like. What it sounds like. What it feels like.

Given that description, us aforementioned outsiders might feel differently about how this extraordinarily talented singer/performer expresses herself.

So what does it mean to live a life of passion?  Read the rest of this entry »

What steroid are you tempted to use?

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(This is a resubmission of the article I wrote yesterday.  I changed the title.)

In his book Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success author and NBA former coach, Phil Jackson, emphasizes the need for players to have a team mentality instead of a me-mentality.  He took on the challenging task of asking Michael Jordan to reduce the number of successful shots he made in a game.  Keep in mind, Michael Jordan was averaging 32.5 points per game at that point, almost single handedly winning games.  The coach wanted other members of the team to get more involved in the offense, resulting in a team win – not just a MJ win.  Phil Jackson’s explanation to Michael: “You’ve got to share the spotlight with your teammates, because if you don’t, they won’t grow.”

English: Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan and Phil...
Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson 1997 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At first Michael expressed his lack of confidence in some of his players and his hesitancy to let them have the ball.  Phil Jackson responded, “The important thing is to let everybody touch the ball, so they won’t feel like spectators.  It’s got to be a team effort.”  It wasn’t an easy sell – to be sure – but Michael Jordan went with his coach’s plan.  That seems to have worked for him.

Now switch to a different sport and a different player: Alex Rodriguez, or A-Rod as he is now called  – unless you live in Seattle where their former Mariner shortstop is called “Pay-Rod” because of his greed when leaving the Mariners for the Texas Rangers.

David Brooks, syndicated columnist for the Seattle Times, wrote an exceptional opinion piece: A-Rod: the perils of self-preoccupation.  This columnist knows how to clearly paint a personality picture – or should I say, personality disorder? “One of the mysteries around Rodriguez is why the most talented baseball player on the planet would risk his career to allegedly take performance-enhancing drugs?”  A-Rod’s self-preoccupation prevented him from successfully managing his own talent.  The columnist’s theory about those who are self-preoccupied is explained like this: “Locked in a cycle of insecurity and attempted self-validation, their talents are never enough, and they end up devouring what they have been given.”

Where does that leave the little league baseball player in his or her quest to mimic the bigger-than-life champions (pun-intended) such as Alex Rodriguez?  Emulating A-Rod, or McGwire, or Sosa – or any other player who allegedly cheated to improve his stats – sends the truly talented youth down the wrong path.

Where does that leave you and me?  Each time we take a chance, put ourselves out there and dare to make something of ourselves, we run the risk of failure.  As A-Rod’s former NY Yankee manager, Joe Torre, once wrote, “There’s a certain free-fall you have to go through when you commit yourself without a guarantee that it’s always going to be good…Allow yourself to be embarrassed.  Allow yourself to be vulnerable.”

As a “trying to become a novelist” novice, I’m definitely in a free-fall.  There’s no guarantee that the seven months of writing my novel (so far) will be picked up by an agent or publisher.  It’s highly likely that the 103,000 words I’ve written (so far) will be criticized so horrifically, that no publishing professional will want to be associated with me.

But I’m doing what I love; I’m doing what I know I’m supposed to be doing; so I’m in that free-fall and praying for a soft landing.  I could try to cheat my way to publication – but copying someone else’s work (other than quoting and crediting them) and characterizing it as my own is a steroid that I’m not interested in taking.

I want to be proud of what I’ve accomplished – not ashamed – and I want others to benefit from the honest work that I do.