I’m going to assume that the reason for this is because my birthday is fast approaching, but I’ve been looking back and thinking a lot. I would like to think that I’ve learned some things, but I know that the learning process is still just starting. It’s almost like for the first 20 years of my life, I thought I knew everything while the last eight have mostly been realizing just how little I actually do or don’t, while this is the beginning of getting some wisdom related to what I know. So what have I learned?
- Lose the Ego.
This is applicable to all people, everywhere, of any racial, sexual, gender, or religious persuasion. If anything, I’ve learned that pride accomplishes exactly three things — 1) it polarizes. 2) it galvanizes. 3) it makes you look like an asshat. As much as so many of us decry the polarizing of society into “us” vs. “them” and the demonizing of the “them”, whoever that happens to be, there aren’t that many people who are willing to admit that at least a part of the reason “them” are as vicious as they happen to be is because they are reacting to our pride…especially as our pride causes us to do more and more ridiculous things: Amber Rose’s “Slutwalk” and the Texas Open Carry marches are two of the more extreme and notable examples.
- Strive for perspective.
It doesn’t matter if we are trying to tie the issue of Same Sex Marrige to the Civil Rights movement or if we are accusing Starbucks of persecuting Christians with the use properly ugly “Holiday Cups” — the lack of persepctive in both arguments is stunning and self-evident. On some level hyperbole is a very natural and human thing to do — especially for westerners when, for some, getting repeatedly called a nasty name is among the worst things to have happened to us. If America is “just the worst” because we have 53% of the country who think that LGBTQ people shouldn’t be eligible to file joint tax returns, what does that make Iran where they “don’t have gay people” because Ahmedinejad attempted to execute them all (1) (2)? If America is among the most hostile nations to women because women make $0.90-$0.96 on the dollar to men in the same field with similar education levels and work hours (3) (4), what does that say about Saudi Arabia where the Grand Mufti declared women’s suffrage “opening the door to evil”? (5) This isn’t to say that there aren’t issues worth dealing with or that require attention, but the lack of perspective causes people to not appreciate where they are (ever) and how good they have it compared to just about everywhere else… and yes, this definitely includes young, straight, white, male, Americans.
- Be grateful — because the only thing you can control is you.
In many ways, this is a necessary corollary to the previous point. Life is inherently unfair — always has been and pretty much always will be. So, be thankful for what you have, work for what you want, and don’t sweat the other stuff — because most of the other stuff is begrudging what someone else has worked for anyway. Steve Jobs couldn’t prevent Bill Gates from getting radically wealthy and taking 80% market share in home computing with Windows — so he made the iPod. As a former baseball player, do I feel any twinges of “that should have been me” when I see a 26 year old kid hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy, getting a World Series winner’s ring and being handed a 7 year contract for $200 million? No, not at all. I didn’t put in the work to get there because I decided other things were more important to me — and that’s the key. The only thing I can control is me. I can’t dictate how other people treat me and the universe doesn’t owe me anything… so I’m thankful for that which I have and I understand that I need to work towards that which I wish I had.
Those are probably the three biggest things on my mind as I come to my 28th birthday. Stay humble — it makes dealing with people that much easier. Strive for perspective — no sense getting bent out of shape when things aren’t that bad. Be grateful — the universe is a harsh and unfair place and all you can control is your reactions to it.