“Dude, you’re harshing my mellow…”
Let me know what you think about this, will ya?
It seems, at first, to be a light-weight subject…
… yet, really, it’s one of the foundations of living a good life.
I’m talking about the people you surround yourself with.
But not the way you’re thinking.
This may even jar you a little bit. Here goes:
Early in my career, I realized that grown-up life isn’t all that much different…
… than what goes on during recess in the third grade.
There are outsiders, insiders, cliques, teams, gangs, winners and losers galore.
No matter WHAT grisly experience you had in grade school…
… you’ve got company.
It’s brutal out there.
And then you become an adult…
… and it’s the SAME SHIT all over again. Hierarchies, power-grabbing, humiliation plays, one-up-manship, and clubs you can’t belong to.
The ranks of entrepreneurs I know are filled with “recess survivors” who finally gave the finger to “The System”, and went off on their own.
As amazing as it seems, you really can get on with life without the “gotcha” games and pettiness of “Life With Bullies, Prom Queens, and BMOC’s”.
… that’s not the realization I want to share with you today.
Instead, the second part of that epiphany (that life is just a replay of third grade recess) is this:
Regardless of whether you “won” or “lost” in the social-climbing bullshit you’ve suffered through in your time…
… it can all still be a blast…
… if you have the right people around you.
In other words… it’s not whether you win, or lose.
It’s how much fun and insight to life you get during the adventure.
Let’s use me as an example.
Cuz I don’t mind telling embarrassing stories about myself:
I had a very mixed record of social “success” coming up the ranks… both in school, and in early adult life.
I was okay at sports. Just good enough to make the team and suffer the anxieties and physical/emotional debt of vicious organized games. And just under-powered enough to get cut from every attempt to make varsity. So I got to play… and I got to experience the arrid loneliness of the bench and the exit door.
But I sucked, utterly and without redemption, at most social interaction. Girls scared the bejesus out of me as a kid… flummoxed me as a teen… and toyed with me after that.
I was so unprepared, so confused, and so clueless about dealing with standard issues of dating and being a cool guy and feeling like I belonged… that, if I were a character in a novel, you’d roll your eyes and say “No way could anybody be that much of a loser!”
That was me.
But get this:
I still had a BLAST.
Even when Life dialed up the most humiliating, emotionally-scarring horror possible to a shy, skittish introvert like me…
… I was able to shake it off, and show up the very next day smiling and ready for more.
“That all you got, Fate? That’s your best shot, you miserable s.o.b.? Ha!”
You know how I did it? How I survived, and even thrived while being buried in sticks and stones and the arrows of misfortune?
I’ll tell you:
I had buddies to share it all with.
Not just fellow losers, either.
And this is the essential point here: I had a close-knit group of guys (and a few gals) around me…
… who delighted in being alive.
There’s probably some social-math equation I could come up: Your ability to survive and thrive… is directly proportional to the time that elapses between a horrible event…
… and your ability to laugh about it.
With my friends and me, that time was often instantaneous.
We had a lot of practice.
(And I’m not talking about just dating disasters, or heartbreak, or social blunders. I’m including death, financial misery, and the near-total upheaval of normality. The kind of blows that can rock you to your knees.)
I’m still not yet revealing the essence here.
The take-away of this tale is not “friends are good.”
Because I will attest that there was a very definable, and very rare aspect of these friends that is absolutely essential…
… and even beside the point of being able to laugh about tragedy.
You wanna guess what that aspect is?
This realization came rushing back to me yesterday while I chatted with my best friend from high school. Haven’t seen the dude in two years, but we stay in close touch.
And, mid-way through the call…
… I realized I ached from laughing.
Even though some of the subjects we discussed were illnesses in our families, job woes, relocation horror stories, and other tragedies.
And I was able to put a “quality” on that laughter.
It was bristling with raw energy. The “good” kind of energy.
There really are two kinds of people in the world: Those who bring energy with them to everything they do…
… and the great masses, who suck energy from you like psychic vampires. (That’s a Halbert term, by the way. Privately, we had other names for these types of buzz-killing grim reapers.)
I’ve known a lot of folks in my time. And I’ve unconsciously been putting each and every one through a little test upon meeting them.
The test is simple: Do they provide energy? Or are they leeching it from the air around us?
A party crammed with energy-gobbling vampires is a drag, through and through. Even Vegas can’t salvage a good time.
And yet, just hanging out with a single “mini-solar system” type of person in a drab coffee shop… can be pure bliss.
In business… in life… in games and in every social and quasi-social gathering…
… there is no fun, and little chance for adventure or good stories when the energy level is flat-lined.
And yet… when you are in the company of someone bursting with life-force…
… well, it’s pretty freaking magical.
The most mundane tasks become a joy. (My pal Art and I used to just drive around Cucamonga, with no goal or destination… not cruising, but rather just hanging out, laughing, basking in raw energy and verve and marvelling at the cruel and wonderful adventures Life handed out.)
Life isn’t gonna treat you better when you surround yourself with heat-source types. You’re still gonna take it on the chin, still gonna encounter monsters around every corner.
My mother — after ten months of gruesome chemo — still managed to tell a joke and make me smile… just hours before she passed away.
Believe me — there was nothing funny going on that afternoon.
But I cherish that last “don’t let the bastards get you down” shared moment with her.
If you understand what I’m talking about, you don’t need to know anything else about her to know exactly what kind of special woman she was.
That was over 15 years ago. And the lesson I learned is never far from my thoughts… especially when I’m feeling like Life has it out for me again.
The ride’s too short.
If you’ve got that flame in your soul, don’t let anyone or anything douse it.
We need you in the mix.
We already got enough of the damned vampires hovering…
Anyway, something to consider.
What do you think?
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