Posts tagged ‘discipline’

December 31, 2019

#158) Of obstacles and pussy, part II: My new direction for the new decade

“I’ll bet you if there was some pussy on top of that obstacle, you’d find a way up there!” So yells Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, unforgettably played by R. Lee Ermey, to an out of shape recruit in Stanley Kubrick’s film “Full Metal Jacket.”

While Ermey was characteristically crude about it, his point is one that dates back to our hunter-gatherer days: when the prize is exciting or important enough, we will overcome obstacles. The “P. on the O.” formula is frequently employed by modern man: athletes logging that extra hour in the pool or on the track in pursuit of Olympic dreams; cubicle drones working late at the office while envisioning a promotion; young men picturing their new girlfriend naked as they pretend to agree with her father’s political views.

I have been a devout disciple of P. on the O. for a long time. As a musician, the goal of playing better shows for bigger crowds and more money often motivated me to practice more and cold call venues. When I started my hiking site, Nobody Hikes in L.A., dreams of cyberspace glory helped me embrace some of the less glamorous aspects of blogging as a business, such as search engine optimization, navigating lowball offers for sponsored posts, keywording and (gasp) establishing a social media presence. In some cases, P. on the O. became literal: surviving the dark days after a breakup by imaging myself finding the woman of my dreams (something that I’m happy to say, actually did happen almost 12 years ago.)

Yes, I have always used pussy as a motivation for tackling an obstacle. Now, I am going to take a break.

It doesn’t mean that I am no longer pursuing goals. It doesn’t mean that I am gay, although I have made some jokes over the years that might have caused people to question my sexual orientation and I do love “The Music Man.” It doesn’t mean that I think the concept can’t be a good motivational tool for others or that I myself won’t return to it someday. It only means that I am heading in a different direction.

I have long been more motivated by the result than the process; the destination rather than the journey. I have realized that as I approach the middle of my fifth decade, it’s time to find processes and journeys that I can enjoy, regardless of the payoff.

Lately, a lot of people have been sharing the “At some point in your childhood…” quote/meme/article. While it doesn’t directly apply to me – I didn’t have much of a social life growing up, and to the extent I did, it revolved more around D&D and video games than outdoor activities – I can still relate. At some point, I played a musical instrument for the last time without it being preparation for a gig or rehearsal and I wrote my last song without being preoccupied with how I was going to record and promote it. At some point, I went on my last hike without thinking about how I was going to write it up or which pictures to submit to stock photography sites. I miss that, more than I miss the successes that felt important to me before they happened but empty once the euphoria was gone.

How does one motivate themselves without pussy on top of the obstacle? I don’t claim to know, but perhaps it involves redefining what an obstacle is. For me, it could involve reorganizing my practice shed into a place where I want to go instead of forcing myself to when there’s a gig coming up. Making new play lists for my workouts, or watching my new kindred spirit Bob Menery on Youtube so I’ll want to hit the elliptical regardless of whether I’m getting ready for a big hike (Don’t know who Bob Menery is? You’re welcome). Looking for new grassroots level content providers whose work I enjoy and want to share just because I think other people will too and not because I want them to link back to me. (Although I won’t say no if they offer).

Will any of this work? I don’t know, but I do know that while I once envied people who had all of the trappings of success – the hot chick, the legions of followers, the big endorsement deal, the high profile brand partnership – I am now more jealous of those who are committed to the journey, who find meaning in an activity even when no one is watching. The good news is that I can become one of them. After all, I was before.

October 29, 2011

#29) Top five lessons from “Moneyball”

This will be the last baseball post for a while, I promise.

It’s been said that one doesn’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy “Moneyball.”  As a baseball fan, I wouldn’t be the one to ask, but I would guess that one would have to be a baseball fan to really enjoy the book.  There were some parts that were a little hard to follow, even as a baseball fan, and it’s my guess that the non-fan would be lost or bored by them.

That said, with “Moneyball”, the movie vs. book debate is apples and oranges: the film, thoroughly enjoyable, has wide appeal, whereas the book is already a classic among hardcore baseball geeks.

The book has several valuable lessons that transcend the sport, so for those who don’t feel like reading “Moneyball” but might be interested in some of its take-aways, I present my five favorites.

1) When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  This may be the oldest cliche out there, but the story of Billy Beane, Oakland Athletics general manager, puts a new twist on it.  Beane himself was a highly touted baseball prospect in the early 1980s, whose career was a disappointment.  However, he became his own cautionary tale.  The scouts who saw him and built him up were impressed by his appearance, and Beane used the lesson of his own story to judge players by their actual statistics and records, not just what is apparent.

2) Use what you have, not what you need.  Billy Beane’s 2002 Oakland A’s won the same number of games as the Yankees, a team with a payroll four times higher.  Beane knew early on that it wouldn’t pay to fixate on the gap between the two teams’ budgets; he had to find a different way of looking at the numbers.  He reinvented how to read baseball statistics and found value in players who were under-appreciated by the market; he also saw how to replace the higher-priced stars whom he couldn’t afford to keep.

3) Know what you want.  Once Beane realized the type of players he wanted, he would put their names up on a board and figure out exactly what he needed to do to get them, bluffing, cajoling and negotiating his way to his goal.

4) Know how to be “wrong.”  Baseball people, be they fans, writers or those inside the game, are notorious for being stuck in their ways.  Beane didn’t change his course when his strategies were lambasted by the media.

5) Know how to be right.  As word spread of Beane’s effectiveness in finding undervalued players, others in the baseball world refused to do business with him, knowing that by definition, they were probably getting the short end of the stick.  Like a pool hustler, Beane had to convince his marks that the deal was actually in their interest.

The story of Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics is certainly entertaining, educational and inspirational.  Even non-baseball fans can learn a thing or two from his persistence, innovation and creativity.