Shake, rattle ‘n roll… ‘n roll… n’ roll… n’ roll…
Not sure if you’ve been following the micro-news or not… but our little town here nestled against the Sierra Nevada has been Earthquake Central for the last week or so.
That’s right. Reno made the national newscasts by shaking its butt.
Actually, a flurry of heart-pounding smallish quakes has been unsettling the joint since February… but things got really interesting this past week: On average, we’re experiencing over a hundred shaking events a day (!), with the largest so far nudging 5.0 (knock you off your feet level).
The experts assure us a volcano isn’t about to emerge from under Fourth Street and shower us with lava or anything like that.
Still, the whole city is holding its collective breath, waiting for the punchline to arrive.
Now, I’m from California, and we’re so blaise about seismic activity, we named our minor-league baseball team after earthquakes. (Literally, the Cucamonga Quakes, single A.) I slept through most of the big ones while growing up — my bed would bounce across the floor, and everything from the walls and bookcases would doink off my head, yet I refused to leave slumberland. (Probably helped that I grew up less than one hundred feet from active train tracks, where the Southern Pacific freights would rattle the house several times a day.)
So I’m not particularly nervous. Been sleeping fine, even when the big jolts arrive in the wee hours. I’ll get up, calm the dogs down, check for flaming lava in the hallway, and fall back into a deep snooze before the first aftershock arrives.
Of course, everyone who didn’t grow up in California is freaking out. Michele’s downright jumpy — her hometown of Chicago was, she insists, firmly nailed down like a city is supposed to be. Damn it. She is actually offended by my smug refusal to sit up all night waiting for the next tremblor.
And hey, being jumpy is fine. As long as you channel that energy into being prepared. We’ve been chatty with neighbors we haven’t noticed since last summer (when everyone spent the evening sipping wine in the middle of the cul de sac, watching the nearby hills burn and taking bets on whose house would go up like a matchhead first if the wind changed). Trading info and phone numbers and secret emergency plans.
And also trading fears.
It’s gotten me thinking about what life is really all about, again.
You know — once the danger passes, how are you gonna change things so you enjoy this corporeal ride with a little more gusto?
Gary Halbert and I used to gleefully have a very similar conversation, over and over, whenever the mood struck: We asked ourselves, what does a good life look like?
It’s a subject worthy of repeated exploration.
If you need help getting started, consider those inane celebrity interview modules in magazines… where somebody pitches them 20 fast questions like “What is your perfect day?” and “What do you see yourself doing five years from now?”
They ask these questions as if, of course everyone has an instant answer handy. I mean, who doesn’t constantly obsess on what a perfect day would be?
Try it on your friends, and on yourself. You’ll find that, in reality, very few people have even considered the concept of looking ahead like that. (I’m betting the celebs have their PR handlers do most of the answering in those articles, anyway.)
Many folks are just plain superstitious about imagining the future, like they’ll jinx any chance they may have of attaining a good life down the road…
… when — once you understand how goal-setting works — that kind of avoidance is actually a damn good way to guarantee you’ll never get close to a perfect anything.
A good life seldom just happens to you.
You gotta envision it… go after it… and attain it.
You want it… you take it… and you pay the price.
Here’s a tip you may not discover immediately, that will help you understand why it’s so hard at first to see your future very clearly: Your desires, and thus your “perfect” goals, will change dramatically over time.
If you have your old high school yearbook, go read what your pals wrote about the impending future. If life just kinda “happened” to any of them in the cruel adult world, there wasn’t much in the way of startling surprises. Or adventures.
It’s very much worth thinking about what a good life looks like.
The rules Halbert and I came up for our incessant chats on this topic were simple: We had to be painfully and excruciatingly honest.
Sometimes, this meant our talk degenerated into locker room fantasies. That was allowed. We both had bloated biological imperatives.
Mostly, though, we talked of finding not a moment in time where bliss was attained… but rather an ongoing series of opportunities for exploration and sampling.
In other words… we suspected that the Perfect Life would be too full of surprises, too unpredictable, and too intertwined with edgy adventure to allow a quick, pat, consistent answer.
So our vision changed, constantly. Curiously, neither of us gave a shit about material possessions. Or power.
In the end, the Introvert usually triumphed within us. A good life had its lovely carnal pleasures, sure… but central to complete fulfillment was a pursuit of intellectual goals and long greedy spells acquiring knowledge and (as silly as it sounds) wisdom.
(I’ve recently heard how Gene Simmons, the bass player from KISS, describes his perfect day… and I gotta admit, he has a point about not getting too philosophical about shit. Fortunately, I’ve had a few extended spells of hedonistic excess to enjoy… and while I do not regret a single hour, I will admit that it gets boring after a while. Especially for someone who spends an inordinate amount of time deep inside their head.)
(Still, you go, Gene. Party ev-er-y day…)
Now, here’s the kicker: You cannot just possess wisdom. To set up a life where you have the LUXURY of pursuing such lofty crap… you need lots of freedom.
I realized something a very long time ago: Many entrepreneurs really do get into biz for the money, and all the things money can buy. The freedom they enjoy is the freedom from want, and the giddy gorging at the teat of modern pleasures.
However, there are just as many others for whom money is just a way to buy different kinds of freedom: Never having others choose for you, never needing to shoulder responsibilities you don’t freely seek, never wondering when “life” will begin… because you’re highly aware you’re deep into it, every day.
As you explore your own notions of a good life, judge harshly against your intuition and your gut. Make sure no one else is influencing your dream, unless you welcome the influence. (My first lists of goals — while I was struggling with the concept of being able to actually “want” something and go after it — were heavy with rewards I didn’t actually want… like boats, or a big mansion, or fame. I had to extract myself from the quicksand-like influence of other people’s desires, before I could find where my heart truly lay. It’s a process. I had a long way to go, but each attempt at refining and reshaping my peculiar goals paid off hugely.)
Is freedom important to you? It’s not, for everyone. Like Dylan said, you gotta serve somebody. A higher purpose, a god, an addiction, a family model, something. If you choose something hard-to-define, like a “higher purpose”, then your everlasting homework assignment is to explain to yourself HOW you will serve that purpose.
You can’t just say you’re after it, either. When you’re engaging life on all cylinders, you get busy, not philosophical.
You go after it.
In Gary’s case — and this still influences me today — he had a peculiar inability to settle down and enjoy any reward he’d attained. For him, the happiness of succeeding meant only that another chapter in his life had ended… and he had to hunker down to find that next challenge, that next hill to climb, that next dragon to vanquish.
That’s an exhausting way to live, but it’s also invigorating when you do it right.
And, because you have the freedom to choose your goals and directions… and the freedom (in your mind and your bank account) to pursue them with balls-to-the-wall fervor… you can change direction any time your gut tells you it’s time.
Consider, as you mull your own perfect day and good life, if the destination or the journey is more important to you.
For me, it’s always been about the ride.
Sometimes, I get too complacent about success, and make the horrible mistake of thinking “I’ve done it, by Jove!” When, according to my private scorecard, I haven’t done jack shit yet in life.
I’ve been telling people lately to think about their life story as a movie. Because that’s easy to digest. For me — and maybe for you, too — the better analogy is a big long novel.
When chapters end, new ones begin immediately. The tale has no clear final act, because life isn’t a static frozen moment, but a continual jaunt through ever-changing scenery.
Still, it’s good to think (and to talk about, with good friends) what your good life looks like.
I’m always fascinated by other people’s ideas on this, too.
Comments are welcome. If you’re just beginning to consider your own journey, all the better — here’s a forum for your thoughts.
I am constantly blown away by how smart, how involved, and how alive the commenters in this blog are. It’s a rush, I gotta tell ya, to know so many people of quality and insight are out there.
Love to hear from you.
My good life is taking me over to San Francisco this weekend, of course — out of the Sierra Bed O’ Earthquakes, into the quivering bosom of The Mother Of All Fault Lines in the Bay Area.
If we survive, I’ve got a big damn fresh list of “good life” things to indulge in over the summer.
What a ride we’re on…
P.S. If you’re still bummed about missing out on this upcoming copywriting workshop… and who in their right mind isn’t bummed about missing it?… remember that we’ve still got several coaching programs in place, all heavily loaded with personal attention from me.
Check out www.carltoncoaching.com, while you’re contemplating your future.
Might be a great fit there, you know.