Thursday, May 10, 2012

Unlikely Measures of Success and How to Recognize Them

Think about all you go through in life.  Think about this question; what are the first three or four things you think about when you wake up in the morning (besides the bathroom)?  Right there, you have it--that's what really matters to you in this world.  It may be a love for somebody.  It may be a fear of/for somebody or a respect or an excitement over some thing (toy) or event.

This evening, I'm out cutting my grass.  The neighbor is consumed with how we blow our grass to ensure it doesn't go into the drainage ditch or into his yard.  I suppose caring about it is reasonable, but being consumed?  I don't know about you, but I've mowed grass since I was 8-years old.  I probably wouldn't even remember when I started if it weren't for the dog that bit me in the ass when I was dragging the mower home one day--I suspect he thought I was an Imperial Walker and he sought to protect the street of his homeland.  In all those years of mowing, 32 since then, I've been taught to/practiced mowing grass outwards, away from the uncut grass, in order to keep it from accumulating inward and bogging down the mower.

But he's a specialist.  He owns a business that deals with the intricacies of lawn care.  I can respect that.  Yet, in all of the lawns I have mowed where there were ditches, I have never had to worry about the grass going in and accumulating.  Some of those lawns, I took care of for years and there was never any accumulation (it was either destroyed by the push-mower or weed-eater, or pushed out of the way by the forces of the mower's blowout, wind, or water).  The mower I'm using now cuts grass so fine that it's like a powder almost.  Little, teeny, itsy-bitsies.

I didn't get defensive when he came over and lectured my gf and she volunteered to go rake out the ditch after the first time I broke his cardinal rule.  I didn't get defensive this evening when he stood at his fence line to chaperone my cutting as he has taken a liking to, and even when he said to me (which were his first words directly to me), "I'd like if you blow it away from the ditch and the fence.  I just cut here, and I blew mine away from your lawn," which wasn't even true because we watched him with a push mower, on our property, blowing it right into our yard.  I didn't get defensive last year when he suggested that trash was ending up in the ditch, as if it was coming from our place (which is rather tidy if I do say so).  We live on a MAIN road, with litter!  Didn't bother me.  I blew it off.

Do you sense where this is going?

He must be doing great!  The only question I had for him but never asked was this: "When was the last time you had a genuine smile?  About anything?"

If you are doing so well in life that your thoughts get consumed with grass fragments or the origin of plastic bottle caps or hamburger wrappers, you really should pat yourself on the back because you have arrived.  I have no question that the man knows his business, but I don't take kindly to anybody telling me how to cut my grass where I live.  I have a general problem with authority anyway, but specifically problems with those who try to impose their will upon my domain.  Yet, the more I thought about him, two feelings emerged: the first, of course, was the realization that he must be doing pretty damned well and the second was that he needed to find something to enjoy instead of policing.

When I came inside tonight, another thought occurred before I realized the topic of tonight's post.  I thought about an author who had written on the Amazon boards that she couldn't understand why her sales had dropped down to under 50 or 100 (can't remember) books per day, and the other authors and some readers were all consoling her and giving her tips.  Nothing at all wrong with that, but I sell an average of just over one book per day, and the reason I'm entirely content with that is this: two years ago on this day, I hadn't even published a book, and now my fourth one will be published in June (I've written five to completion but I'm re-working the daylight out of one).  I look FORWARD to the day when I have to complain that sales are under 50 per day, because you know what?  That's not a problem.  That will never be a problem for me.

The message I guess I'm trying to push is this; take a survey of yourself and find out what you worry about or complain about the most in a given day.  Then think about where you were ten years ago and what you were complaining or worrying about then.  If your problems are worse, then you're pretty much average in your thinking by my guess.  But if your problems are much less severe, don't be afraid to smile inside even if you won't let people on the outside know that you're doing much better (you know who you are--some people love to appear always on the brink of death in some form).  The depth and true impact of your perceived problems is the most accurate measure of your success.

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