The Aging Curse

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I sit here watching as Rob Lowe tells us in so many words of the highs and lows of the decade of the 1980s. As I view old news clips of thin ties and big bouncing perms with their constant fluttering curls, I sadly lament the innocence lost, the people lost, the dreams lost. I see in those once thin and optimistic faces the images of people I have known. Not all of them, but far too many.

In those faces I saw the hope for the future, a future that would never be. I lament those souls of time past. Perhaps it’s the need for the National Geographic Channel to turn every story – real or imagined – into a cathartic Greek tragedy. As I reflect, though, I come to realize that perhaps the Greeks were right after all. All life is hubris. And hubris leads to downfall. Catharsis becomes necessary to cleanse that hubris from our psyche.

Without this purification, dreams go unachieved. The temptations of everyday life divert us. They lure us from our critical path to success. They take us away from what we truly aspire to be. Instead, they have us accept the shallow trappings of a material world.

“Whoever dies with the most toys wins,” read a popular bumper sticker from the 1980s. Those who lived by this “Greed is Good” credo may have found success in the short-term. As I see the cavalcade of faces float across my television screen, however, I see faces that weren’t realizing their own dreams, but living the false siren of Madison Avenue. Rather than becoming the elite they so imagined themselves to be, they reduced themselves to that hoi polloi they so loathed.

And so I go on, listening to the serious voice of a dire Rob Lowe recount what I had lived through. I’m compelled by the desire to go back in time, grab the lapels attached to those buoyant yet naïve smiles, and shake them in hopes of breaking that evil spell.

Then I remember, that message was always there. Again, it was the hustle and bustle of the unyielding rat race that spoke in volumes loud enough to captivate so many. Those faces had to try very hard to hear the message that would lead them to their dreams. You can’t blame them if the distracting din proved too flashy. You shouldn’t blame them.

What you can do is learn from history, learn from the mistakes of others.

It begins with recognizing the traps wasn’t merely wanton materialism. That’s easy to identify. Most of us no longer idealize Madonna’s “Material Girl” and therefore don’t fall for the feckless lure of the material world.

Believe it or not, there’s a trap much sneakier than materialism. It is the antithesis of such flamboyance. It is mundane. It is routine. It is the run-of-the-mill activity you experience each and every day. That omnipresent “to-do” list that governs your very being. That’s what keeps you from achieving your dreams.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” You’ve probably heard this quote many times. In 1957, Reader’s Digest attributed this adage to Allen Saunders, a cartoonist of such serials as “Steve Roper,” “Mary Worth,” and “Kerry Drake.” If you think about it, the quote fits perfectly in the “organization man” era of post-World War II America (William Whyte’s bestselling book by that name came out in 1956). In the 1950s, it wasn’t so much Madison Avenue that called the shots as it was the corporate boardroom.

Although the anti-establishment mandate of the 1960s and the entrepreneurial era of the 1980s effectively muted the stultifying bondage of the organization man, the feeling never quite left us. Two major recessions (1991 and 2008/2009) curbed our economic enthusiasm. Those events caused us to fall back into the familiar comfort of the organizational cocoon. So we make plans on how to survive from day-to-day.

Today, we subordinate our long-term dreams for the perceived imperatives of the short-term. Go back to that to-do list for a moment. Image the delight you feel when you cross off an item. It pleases you. It inspires you to take the action required to cross off another item.

This is quite natural behavior. It’s the basis of most games. It’s what leads to success. It’s what makes us achieve our dreams.

So, what’s holding us back?

It’s the composition of that to-do list. If the tasks consist only of day-to-day “needs,” then when it’s all said and done, you’ll look back sorrowfully at a life spent merely spinning wheels.

On the other hand, take a moment and consider your long-term dreams. What is the sequence of milestones you need to accomplish to make that dream a reality? Now, imagine your to-do list consists of a healthy mixture of your daily tasks and your long-term tasks (hint: start small with the latter). This allows you to use the immediate gratification of crossing off those short-term tasks to motivate you to begin crossing off those long-term tasks. Doing this will propel you towards your lifetime dreams.

It’s the curse of getting older that you see with sadness the lost dreams of so many. In contrast, it’s a blessing that age permits you to learn from the success of others, from those who have achieved their dreams.

It’s not rocket science. It’s discipline.

The kind of discipline we are all capable of.

Uncertainty Breeds Opportunity

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Uncertainty creates anxiety. It doesn’t have to be that way. For gamblers, warriors, and investors, uncertainty signals opportunity.

Your opponents sitting across the card table from you don’t know the hand you’re holding. Skilled players learn to take advantage of this uncertainty by bluffing their way to higher jackpots. These players accomplish this by both encouraging those with lesser hands to call their bets and intimidating those with better hands to fold. Expert poker players study how to marshall, disguise, and portray their emotions in ways to fool their opponents. That’s how gamblers win.

Similarly, seasoned generals understand the fog of war offers the opportunity to mask Continue Reading “Uncertainty Breeds Opportunity”

Why 7-15-60 is the Winning Combination of Every Group that Wants Lasting Influence

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Civic associations represent the backbone of a vibrant democracy. They have fueled American Exceptionalism since the very beginning of our country. But don’t take my word. Read what one of history’s most quoted experts had to say on this very subject.

“Among democratic nations, on the contrary, all the citizens are independent and feeble; they can do hardly anything by themselves, and none of them can oblige his fellow men to lend him their assistance. They all, therefore, become powerless if they do not learn voluntarily to help one another. …if they never acquired the habit of forming associations in ordinary life, civilization itself would be endangered.”

“Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations… The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found seminaries, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools… Wherever at the head of some new undertaking you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association.”

Continue Reading “Why 7-15-60 is the Winning Combination of Every Group that Wants Lasting Influence”

Graduates: How to Let Your Passion Become Your Talent

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It’s a perfectly acceptable question: How does a trained astrophysicist become a nationally recognized newspaper columnist? The answer, obviously, is by spending three decades working as a registered investment adviser.

OK, OK, maybe this requires some explaining.

Let me begin, however, by talking about you. You and I are very similar. We both want things we can’t have, we’re not “supposed” to have, and we aren’t even at the right station in life to come close to having. And there’s nothing wrong with desiring more – more renown, more wealth, more satisfaction. Don’t ever let someone tell you “You can’t do that.” Dream. Dream big. Never stop dreaming big.

Why?

Because such dreams spur you to far greater heights than you can imagine. They possess these three critical components for consistent success: Continue Reading “Graduates: How to Let Your Passion Become Your Talent”

The Problem with Ambition: Sometimes You Don’t Need It to Succeed

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We often think of ancient Rome as a patriarchal society. That may have been true then, but from what I’ve seen, in Italian culture it’s been the women who run things. Whether its grandmothers, mothers, or wives, they represent the backbone of the family and the community. Sure, it seems like the men are in charge, but that’s exactly what the women want them to think. In reality, if the men are the pillars, it’s only because the women are the solid foundation.

Do you recall one-word themes of your youth that have forever shaped you?

Growing up, my grandmother regularly imparted to me and my brother her formula for success. It wasn’t enough to possess talent, you had to possessContinue Reading “The Problem with Ambition: Sometimes You Don’t Need It to Succeed”

Do These 5 Easy Steps When Writing a Press Release and Good Reporters Will Respond Every Time

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Would you be interested in discovering a system that gets you and your business mentioned in the media on a regular and consistent basis? Read this story and I’ll reveal that system. I’ve used it and can tell you it works.

How would you feel if I told you this system is so simple its steps can be counted on one hand? Read this story and you’ll experience the ease with which these steps flow from each of your fingers.

Why is it important you learn this system, commit to it, and practice it regularly? Read this story and see first hand how this can change your personal, professional, and avocational life.

Remember Your First Time?
Remember how you felt the first time you saw your name in print, watched yourself on Continue Reading “Do These 5 Easy Steps When Writing a Press Release and Good Reporters Will Respond Every Time”

5 Tactics of a Winning Little League Coach

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I never asked to be a baseball coach. As you might recall (see “A New Beginning,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, April 27, 2017), baseball and I have had a strange – and sometimes strained – relationship. You could understand my reluctance to agree to play the part of assistant coach for my son’s T-Ball team. Still, it was only T-Ball (how hard could that be) and it was my neighbor who was the head coach. He needed help, so, as any good neighbor would, I readily assented to assist. But, then, the unexpected happened.Continue Reading “5 Tactics of a Winning Little League Coach”

This is What’s Preventing You from Saying that “Something Important” You Want to Let the Whole World Know

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You have something important to say. Admit it. You’re not different than anyone else. We all have something important to say. Your “something important,” though, is different than everyone else’s. Yours is unique. Yours has never been said by anyone else at any other time in history. How can this be? The answer is simple: there’s only one of you, only one of you to ever exist, to think what you think, to discover this thought, idea, solution – this “something important” – in a way no one else could have possibly done it. You are unique. That makes your “something important” unique. And that’s why Continue Reading “This is What’s Preventing You from Saying that “Something Important” You Want to Let the Whole World Know”

Can You Turn Certain Defeat into Victory in Less than 40 Seconds? Follow These Four Easy Steps and You Can!

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Everyone dreams of being the hero. You can imagine yourself being in the right place at the right time. There’s no reason you can’t be that person – the only person – who knows what to do when the going gets tough.

Everyone dreams of snatching victory from certain defeat… and everyone, including you, can do it..

If only you have the time…

Face it, we all know we can make the right decision if we only had all the facts. But rare are the opportunities that offer enough time to gather the facts.

You can’t control the calendar, you can’t control the clock, you can’t control the stopwatch.

And who doesn’t fear what they can’t control?

It’s normal, so sit back and relax. You’re no different than anyone else.

The clock is the clock. The bad news is your rivals have long known this. They’ve used it to Continue Reading “Can You Turn Certain Defeat into Victory in Less than 40 Seconds? Follow These Four Easy Steps and You Can!”

The Secret to Winning: Look for Patterns of Success

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Would you like to know the secret to winning? It’s a system you can easily learn. It works every time. There’s only one trick. I’m guessing you already know what it is.

I’m a Frank Sinatra fan. That means, like any other Sinatra enthusiast, the song “My Way” inspires. (You can read my thoughts on that in “Ruling the World My Way.”) I thank my parents for this, for it was listening to their records that convinced me the Hoboken Hero deserved my attention.

Of course, I was born too late to experience Old Blue Eyes at his vintage best, but I was Continue Reading “The Secret to Winning: Look for Patterns of Success”