Posts tagged ‘obstacles’

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.

December 13, 2013

#66) Embracing the Suck

Nancy Pelosi may be smarter than she looks.  In response to the latest federal government budget deal, the House Minority Leader encouraged her Democratic colleagues to “embrace the suck.”

What exactly does it mean to “embrace the suck?”  In this context, it’s about accepting circumstances and moving forward, acknowledging that things won’t always work out as you want.  In the political world, it could be interpreted as recognizing that while there will always be partisan bickering (and intra-partisan bickering), the job of all elected officials is to make America better. It can also refer to non-politicians who don’t see eye to eye but must work together: corporations; sports teams; musical groups; even friendships and marriages.

The use of “suck” as a noun may have its origins in the Marines; the phrase “welcome to the suck” was used frequently in the film “Jarhead.”  The suck is a situation that, well, sucks, but can also bring people together, as in the Marines.  While the suck might not be enjoyable while it’s going on, surviving it creates a bond among those who have experienced it.

The suck can definitely create positive results.  The tensions between John Lennon and Paul McCartney produced some of the Beatles’ best music.    Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant may hate each other, but they each won more rings together than separately.  The suck can also create personal growth and often those who overcome it can inspire others with their story.  If there was no suck, we wouldn’t enjoy the great moments of our lives.

Will Pelosi and her colleagues on both sides of the aisle embrace the suck?  Will the two parties start working together more efficiently and amicably in 2014?  There’s no way to know for sure, but in its own way, Pelosi’s phrase is a small step in the right direction.   Hopefully the suck will become an obstacle which both parties will work together to vanquish and not remain a response to a less than perfect situation.  All of us have to deal with the suck, regardless of our background.  Help in handling the suck can sometimes come from unlikely places.