NOTE From Sean: Today’s blog post is from my good friend Dan John. So glad to have Dan as a regular contributor now to our blog each month. Enjoy this… and stay tuned for more.
Years ago, we started an interesting family tradition of bowling on the weekends. Originally, we just bowled on three-day weekends, but when we got better we started to go more often. Yet as I watched my kids learn to bowl, something important was missing. And I would have missed it save for a wonderful group of women who helped raised me.
Being the youngest of six kids, I had one great advantage that my older brothers and sister didn’t have: I got to go bowling with mom and her friends while my siblings went to school. My mom was in an afternoon league with a bunch of women who reflected the times they grew up. These were tough ladies who survived the depression, worked as ‘Rosie the Riveter,’ and sent husbands, brothers, and sons off to several different wars. As I would wander around the Brentwood Lanes with my little bag of Cheerios, the women would roll.
I wasn’t allowed to share their soft drinks because they always added a little ‘medicine’ to each glass. Honestly, it wasn’t until I started thinking about this recently did I realize what the actual ingredients of the ‘medicine.’ As the afternoon wore on, some of the ladies would let me finish off their games, as either poor play, or the medicine, made the games not worth saving.
To keep the ball between the gutters as a four year old and roll it all the way down the lane was an accomplishment. Knocking down any pin was a feat worthy of a small jump and a squeal. It was frustrating when the ball would slide into the gutter, but with time and effort, I could get my fair share in to knock a few pins down.
And my children nearly lost this opportunity to learn. To get kids to enjoy bowling, modern alleys have added ‘bumpers’ to keep the balls from ever going into the gutters as well as little ramps that the kids can point and shoot their ball. One afternoon my children and their friends were all scoring over one hundred in their first games.
And the kids were bored to death. It was at that moment that a great revelation of education came to me: by making it easy, we ruined the game. By removing the challenge, we bored the kids to death. Yes, I used to ‘fail’ when I first bowled my mom’s ball into the gutter. But, I kept coming back.
If you read my work, you know that I live by the mantra of former discus world record holder John Powell: “I said it was simple, not easy.” The story goes that he walked a group through the basics movements reminding them over and over the basic technique of discus throwing. When they moved on to a faster pace, a boy hit the ground. He looked up and said: “You said this was easy.” “I said it was simple, not easy.”
I have always believed that greatness comes from, and I paraphrase Dick Notmeyer, from daring to sweat, to strain, to pain. The path is always simple, the issue is finding the courage to handle the pain, the frustration and the failures.
To me, this is the “real” side of goals, goal setting and even life. The challenge of trying to get that ball to roll all the way down that wooden lane kept me coming back time and again. It’s funny to think, literally decades later, how fun the struggle was all those years ago. And, if there is a secret to success, I’m giving it to you right now.
Friedrich Nietzsche reminds us: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” The “how?” That’s easy: it’s the fundamental moves in weightlifting, it’s the basics in discus throwing and it’s keeping a food journal when trying to lose body fat. Folks, you KNOW the “how.” Failure is rarely, over the long haul, due to not knowing what (the how) to do. Let’s be honest: catch the ball, make the basket, save ten percent of your income. You know what to do. The issue is, well, that’s the big question: the question of why.
Viktor Frankl teaches us in “Man’s Search for Meaning,” that there are three ways to discover your why in life:
Suffering (which, sadly, he teaches us is the easiest route)
The word “Passion” gets thrown around a lot and we often forget that the root, from Latin, is “Pati.” Passion means “to suffer.”
My children have caused me to learn more about my why than anyone or anything in my life. The long nights with illness, the fear in water accidents (God only knows why Lindsay is alive) and the challenge, the need to work extra jobs and tasks for their educations has all been worth it. I have suffered many injuries because of sport and would willingly suffer through it all again. We all know this. Use this information to empower you through all your goals!
Annually, I ask myself, “what are my passions” at least once a year. I use a “Best-Worst List” each year to target how overall things are going in my life. I keep lists of favorite books, movies, and songs. Recently, I added a list of “Ten favorite meals” from the insights of Sean Greeley. These lists give me an idea of how I am doing socially, spiritually, emotionally, physically and fiscally. Its greatest gift is giving me some feedback that my passions are worth the effort. Yes, yes I know, “Of course, having kids and building a career and a marriage and having success are all worth it.” Right. But, it’s nice to have it on paper, too
Finally, you might not get your “Goal.” This is actually something that has happened to me many times. What’s amazing is this: NOT getting some of my goals has unpacked far great wealth and riches than achieving them. It’s because I focus on something bigger.
That “bigger” is “The Mission”
Not long ago, I read this wonderful line from Karen Armstrong’s “The Battle for God:”
“Myth was regarded as primary; it was concerned with what was thought to be timeless and constant in our existence. Myth looked back to the origins of life, to the foundations of culture, and to the deepest levels of the human mind. Myth was not concerned with practical matters, but with meaning. Unless we find some significance in this world, we mortal men and women fall very easily into despair.
For me, my “myth” is my mission. I will share it with you:
Make a difference.
That’s it. Every decision I make, I stop for just a second and ask myself how many people can I help. You need to take some time to figure out your mission statement, too. Keep it simple, but remember that you need something that reaches back to your deepest levels. It has to be something that keeps you coming back.
If you want to keep children coming back, you have to challenge them. Teachers lament that their students are more interested in computer games than education, but the wise teacher would do well to consider what keeps the kids glued to the screen. These computer games are challenging, like bowling, like golf, like life.
There is an old coaching dictum: ‘If it was easy, everybody would do it.’ In truth, they would do it, then get bored and find something else. Let us keep in mind that life’s greatest challenges, to love, to love one another, to love your enemies are never easy.
Striving to follow challenges should keep you from sliding into the gutter.