Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Living

A friend of mine lost a family member recently. It reminded me of the morbid perpetuity of death. I do believe in celebrating a person’s life – especially when they’re with us – but I do not buy theological after-life, he/she’s in a better place musings. When you’re here, you’re here; when you’re gone, you’re gone. There’s no good way or good time to go.

But, when you’re here (and I presume there’s a here here, since you’re reading this), your vitality is in your hands. No excuses: You have a tabula rasa (Aristotle: What the mind thinks must be in it in the same sense as letters are on a tablet which bears no actual writing; this is just what happens in the case of the mind). How you live – what you do, who you interact with, what you create – is up to you.

Since you do have a choice, I tender you’d prefer to Live (like totally, to the max [to heist a quote from Valley Girl] with a capital, bold-faced L). To do what you want to do, to go where you want to go, with whom you’d like and when you desire.

Which saunters to my point: Play.

When I think of mentors -- people I endeavor to emulate -- there are two commonalities: They all play (do what they do because they want to, and enjoy it to boot, with little regard for how people perceive them), and they’re a little nuts. As Jimmy Buffett strums, there's a little bit of fruitcake left in everyone of us; my mentors have a lot of fruitcake in each one of them.

Mike Ziegler (CEO of Pride), Sally Edwards (founder of Fleet Feet and several dozen other athletic-centric companies), Buffett, and my late father play (and played). Life is a game they engaged with a childlike, curiously crazy, entrepreneurial enthusiasm. They are full of vitality. They are living. They proactively embrace life. Things do not happen for a reason; they happen because they make it happen.

Mark Twain opined that play and work are words used to describe the same activity under different circumstances. Play (thanks, Wikipedia) is oft defined as a frivolous and non-serious activity (think of those who prescribe such definitions; they’re working, not playing, for a living, reactively sleepwalking through life). Work is compulsive; play is natural and free, intoxicating and invigorating.

Back to Buffett for the wrap:

Oh, yesterdays are over my shoulder,
So I can't look back for too long.
There's just too much to see waiting in front of me,
and I know that I just can't go wrong
With these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes,
Nothing remains quite the same.
Through all of the islands and all of the highlands,
If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane.
+++++++++
Post-script (17 Jan 08): Cool post from Seth Godin ...

A workaholic lives on fear. It's fear that drives him to show up all the time. The best defense, apparently, is a good attendance record.

A new class of jobs (and workers) is creating a different sort of worker, though. This is the person who works out of passion and curiosity, not fear.

The passionate worker doesn't show up because she's afraid of getting in trouble, she shows up because it's a hobby that pays.
+++++++++
Post-script (14 Feb 08): A morbidly humorous Dilbert take, Death by Frozen Poop, about mortality from Scott Adams. In its entirety:

I know there is something wrong with me because I enjoy reading stories about frozen waste from airplane bathrooms that falls to Earth and almost kills people.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2008/02/07/ice-roof.html?ref=rss

When I think of the ways I could die, almost all of them are better than being killed by flying poop. That’s the sort of thing that could erase a lifetime of accomplishment. I would instantly stop being the guy who created Dilbert and forever be known as the cartoonist whose head was crushed by a turd. If I die from frozen restroom waste, my friends and family would have trouble stifling a laugh. And who could blame them, really?

“How did he die?” someone might ask. “I guess you could say he got pissed off,” one of my ex-friends would reply, before laughing heartily.

It seems unlikely I would be killed by airplane waste, but it also seems unlikely a bird would crap exactly in the middle of my bald spot, and that happened. I don’t rule anything out. When I hear jet sounds, I stand under a doorway.

Imagine what would happen if I were doing a book signing, and the frozen waste from the plane missed me, but killed the guy standing in line waiting for my autograph. When telling the story later, would I be able to resist saying “The shit hit the fan”? I think not. And that is why I probably deserve to be killed by frozen poop.

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