Howdy. It’s Tuesday night, a few days away from Amateur Drunk Night (New Year’s Eve)… and I’m thinking about mortality and the brief little ride we’re all given on earth. I’m very pleased with life right now… and, as I’m finding out more and more as I age, it’s not because of anything I’ve done. It’s because of something that hasn’t happened — specifically, I just got a clean bill of health from the doc. Some minor problems with the machinery got my attention last month, and all sorts of red flags went up… but once more I’ve dodged the bullet.
Those of you who have been reading my newsletters for a while know that I led a fairly wild life until I settled down and got serious about writing and bidness. I’ve been in at least three car wrecks where I should have died, and too many of my buddies over the years have died in situations where, by a matter of seconds or inches, they might have skated. Testosterone does funny things to your head, and young men just have to work through the urge to risk and dare and push limits. The lucky ones survive some truly stupid and insane behavior.
And I gotta admit — when you crawl from a ticking wreck, alive and standing despite the blood and torn clothes and smashed glasses, the first thing you want to do is laugh. Because you made it, yet again. And life tastes great when you’ve just brushed up against The Big Black Hole, and walked away grinning.
Young men taunt death, because they lack an intimate understanding of mortality. I now hold life very dear — there’s so much more I need to do before my ticket gets punched — and I find physical risk less attractive than I used to.
The risks I now face each year are much more mundane — cholesterol, blood pressure, psa counts, a suspicious-looking mole. But they’re just as serious as drag racing.
That’s the new hand I’ve been dealt, and I’m playing it hard.
I’m still here. You aren’t rid of me yet, by God.
Side note: As we enter the New Year, in this brave new world of terrorism and genocidal tidal waves and teetering economies, it’s good for your peace of mind to get some perspective. It’s one thing that comes with age, you know — perspective, solely from having logged so many years on the planet.
Well, I’m now over fifty, and those fifty years have been pretty damned interesting. I’ve seen wars begin and end, technologies arrive and collapse, recessions and cultural conflicts and political ideologies come and go.
Why is this relevant? Well, there are a lot of “experts” out there who haven’t been through entire economic cycles yet… or entire pendulum swings in the culture… or the birth and maturation of a technology. Old geezers can come in real handy when you’re panicked over events. Cuz, often, we’ve seen it before. No need to freak out. There are ways to handle almost all of this, and we’ve tried most of ’em.
But you don’t have to rely on geezers. (They can be disagreeable bastards at time.) History isn’t hidden. In fact, it’s laid out in living color for you. As unsettled and scary and unpredictable as the world seems right now… we’ve gone through worse before, and come out fine. There are no guarantees, of course… but if current events (like tsunamis killing tens of thousands and knocking the earth off its axis) have you a little rattled, try reading some history for a reality check. I’m reading about the Crusades right now, back when “getting medieval on your ass” really meant getting medieval.
What you will discover is that it has ever been thus. The world has never been totally at peace, and humans have never gotten along with each other for very long. We didn’t develop our system of law as suggestions for behavior — no, we have laws to punish those who would rock the boat too wildly. When lawlessness rules, as in the Middle Ages, you welcome order and authority. When authority gets too full of itself and starts dragging people to the gallows for minor stuff, you yearn for revolution. There is no safe place where everything is perfect, and never has been. Our culture… and our business world of markets, especially… is in a continual state of flux.
Shit happens, and it happens all the time. Do not let events shake your concentration. Yes, the world may end some day. That doesn’t mean you should abandon your next project. Maybe you don’t want to drop a ton of mail right as the next war starts, and maybe you want to explore a few more “Plan B’s” that include alternate ways to keep bringing results and money and customers when your Standard Operating Procedure gets fried… but don’t give up just because civilization seems ready to implode.
It always seems ready to implode. When I was eight, I was taught to hide under my desk because the Ruskies were gonna drop nuclear bombs on us. I’ve held my breath, along with everyone else, as leaders were assassinated, Black Fridays gutted the stock market, wars went sour, disease raged out of control, and on and on.
Hold on tight. Selling the house and running off to hide in the mountains isn’t your best option yet. There may come a time when it is your best option… but for now, go ahead and plan out your next marketing campaign. If you’ve got a good product — especially an information product — the world needs you.