Afraid To Lose

Reality TV just got a little too nasty, didn’t it.

During the run-up to Hurricane Katrina hitting landfall, I was pretty disgusted with the media. You could see the inner glee of the talking heads as they savored the idea of another catastrophe to obsess on.

This time, surely, they could indulge their thirst for exploring other people’s misery, without the attendant shame of having to deal with Michael Jackson, or the vacuous Aruba murder mystery, or Brad and Jen’s breakup.

However, today, there’s a stunned look on most of them. The glee is gone, replaced by a disbelieving shock. There’s nothing ironic about what just happened, no easy headlines and no funny side stories.

An American city just got bitch-slapped by Nature, and people are hurting. I hope you’ve been able to send a few bucks to one of the more effective relief agencies. I think the Red Cross learned its lesson after botching up their 9-11 windfall. I’m not big on religion, but the Salvation Army knows what to do during this kind of disaster, too.

Just send something, somewhere.

The guys in charge are still lost. Where the hell do you start, even? The New Orleans I grooved through in the late ’70s is gone forever, apparently. They can, and probably will, rebuild… but it will still be a city below sea level, in the path of Hurricane Alley. At some point, someone’s gonna wonder if the rebuilding is even worth it.

Whatever they decide to do, it ain’t gonna help the folks getting relocated right now. There’s no way new money is going to rebuild joints that will rent out for cheap… and that means a huge percentage of the poorer people being evacuated simply will not have anyplace to “come home” to. No matter how long they and their ancestors have lived in the French Quarter.

The unintended consequences of every act, from here on out, will be felt for generations. The political fallout is just starting. (I’ve read that the feds had cut flood control funds for New Orleans by 80% over the last few years, despite the risk of a hurricane hitting exactly as it did being predicted as one of the top three disasters guaranteed to happen in the US this decade. And developers were only recently given the green light to obliterate the wetlands that, in the past, served to mitigate incoming storms and flooding. This will not be pretty.)

The lesson for the rest of us is clear: No matter what you’ve amassed in your life, materially… it can all be taken away in a heartbeat.

What Nature doesn’t stomp, is still being circled by your vulture-like competition. And the IRS, your ex-wife, and identity-thieves are lurking in the wings, waiting for their shot.

Success isn’t about what you have right now.

True success is about what you can have, when it’s necessary to grit your teeth and get moving. Money and fame are ephemeral, wisps of dreams that can vanish without warning. Your favorite guitar, your best friend, your health… all are temporary possessions.

I’ve known a lot of people who gathered the pretty trappings of success… but weren’t really successful. Because, once they “got theirs”, they lived in fear of losing it.

That fear will not keep bad events at bay. It will only cloud your days.

True success is a state of mind… armed with talent. Not the “potential” kind of talent I talked about a couple of posts ago… but honed talent.

The kind of talent that allows you to get knocked back to zero… and climb back to where you want to be, quickly. Short of a health crisis that requires machines to stay alive, a truly successful person knows how to brush themselves off, and get back into the groove before the dust settles.

I’m not saying everyone in New Orleans should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps. That won’t happen. Most people need outside help, and those of us in a position to help should do so. Generously and without second thought.

What I am saying… is that a few people will come out of this stronger than ever. The tools they will use will all be inside of them — honed talent, an ability to set clear goals, and a willingness to search for the necessary info and shortcuts.

Not all of us get tested like that in life.

However, I have noticed that among my closest friends who possess true success… none have been given an easy time of it by Life.

Grieve for the dead, and help your brothers and sisters as much as you can, when you can.

But don’t be caught speechless in the face of disaster, like so many of the young, clueless talking heads on television.

Success requires action, and skill. Consider how you would handle things down at the bleeding mouth of the Mississippi.

John Carlton

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