Thursday, April 15, 2010

#66 - Thoughts on Success

Not to get too political, but in reading any number of conservative blogs and comments on various news stories one gets the impression that hard work and drive are all it takes to be successful and that anyone can do it.

But we can't all be successful, can we? Don't there have to be unsuccessful people against whom the "successful" can measure themselves to know they are in fact successes?

What exactly does it mean to be successful? There are any number of answers to that question, the vast majority of which seem to involve money at some level.

Success seems to be measured by car you drive, the house you live in, the amount of money you make, the toys you have. By those standards, I guess I am moderately successful. But it wasn't always so.

By those yardsticks, most of my life could be written off as a failure. In my first career in broadcasting, my income never topped $25,000 a year. I made enough to pay rent, eat, and to eventually pay off my student loans from college. Not exactly a rags to riches story.

Thanks in large part to the financial prudence of my wife Teresa (the real brains of the outfit) I might be considered a little more successful these days. I live in a nice house (not a McMansion but big enough for us) and drive what I think is a pretty nice truck, used for pulling our one toy, our fifth wheel trailer.

Yet there are, I suspect, people with smaller bank accounts than many of us whom I would consider more successful than I. They have found the one thing I have struggled to obtain for most of my life - a real joy or passion for living.

Their success is measured in ways having little to do with dollar signs or the things money can buy (sorry Madison Avenue): working in a job or field they truly love regardless of what it pays. Still having a touch of the reckless abandon they possessed in childhood. The ability to laugh openly, cry freely, live and love simply. The ability to marvel in a sunset and in the artistic ability required to paint one. Being happy in their own skin and in the place where they are.

Those are the types of small successes I am working toward. I am not consistently there, but I have moments. Turning out a tasty loaf of fresh-baked bread or preparing a meal that others enjoy are two of the ways I measure success these days. Finding something to smile about is another.

And so, I find myself back at my earlier question. We can't all be successful, can we? Well, maybe we can, but only if we stop measuring success the way an accountant might measure a company's financial solvency. Here's to success.

Monday, April 5, 2010

#65 - Easter Reflections

It is Monday evening as I write this, the Monday after Easter. Many are thinking about the just concluded national championship game in college basketball. Me, I am thinking about our just concluded weekend at Bruneau Dunes State Park, about 90-minutes southeast of Boise.

The dunes are a unique geological formation in that the wind patterns work in such a matter that the sand dune formations remain virtually the same year in, year out.

The dunes are, in essence timeless, a characteristic I try to apply to our trips, whether they last a few days or a week or more. Although we may bring a watch or a clock, we don't spend much time watching them or counting down toward anything.

I initially was going to call our trip a camping excursion, but I know some say it isn't camping unless you pitch a tent and roll out a sleeping bag on the hard ground. So I won't call it camping.

What I will call it is getting into my comfort zone. I find I am generally more comfortable and more relaxed when I am parked in a campground, even as opposed to relaxing at home. There are many reasons for that, I'm sure, but I suspect one of them is that a state of calm and serenity exists, and is even imposed by my surroundings.

Any chance I have to get away from the demands of everyday life, I want to take it. Sure, some of the demands are the same when we are set up in some campground, but they seem to take on a more timeless aspect. Most things don't have to be done within a certain time frame. Time itself is measured in terms of today and tomorrow and not in terms of minutes and hours.

One of the things I like best about hitching up the trailer and going out of town is that I get to engage in one of my favorite activities, cooking. I don't mean the "it's 5:30, I just got home from work and need to fix dinner" kind of cooking. I mean the "I have as much time as I want to spend, so what would I like to make" kind of cooking.

So, our Easter weekend at Bruneau Dunes meant chicken and dumplings, home-baked bread, ribs, and dutch oven pizza. And, for Easter morning breakfast, a chance to work on presentation, with an arrangement of cottage cheese, sliced apple, and a hard boiled egg that I titled Venus Fly trap.

Every time we hitch up the trailer and head out somewhere, we manage to combine the best aspects of our home life with the splendor of creation. We read, watch movies, hike, take pictures, and basically spend a good deal more time together. This weekend was no exception.

It was yet another wonderful weekend away from the day to day. I've come to expect nothing less from our excursions, which is why I always look forward to them.