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Getting your act together

In my teens I thought I'd have my act together by my 20s, and in my 20s I thought I'd have my act together by my 30s, and so on. Now I'm 62, and I've never had my act together. I'm not in the process of getting my act together. I'll never have my act together.

Maybe you're working on some aspect of your personality, thinking that in a few months, or maybe a few years, you'll get the knack of it and you'll be a better person. If you're working on improving yourself, I'm rooting for you — absolutely, I'm the fat guy shaking his pom-poms, sis-boom-bah, baby! More likely, though, you're planning to improve yourself, or thinking about planning to improve yourself. Which means, most likely, you're never going to be that better person that you wish you were. Sorry.

I'm not calling you out, nor anyone else, except myself. I'm facing facts, but just for me.

When I was young, I read several self-help books, thinking they might help address my known or unknown character flaws. How to Win Friends and Influence People won me neither friends nor influence. I'm OK, You're OK convinced me that neither of us is OK. The Power of Positive Thinking downright angered me. I suppose any well-written self-help book has a couple of pages of worthwhile advice, but none of those books or several others improved my life by more than a smidgen.

Have you ever heard a baseball MVP say, "I was a plump couch potato, until I read The Power of Intention, by Wayne Dyer?" Ever heard a Nobel laureate say that his greatest inspiration was Awaken the Giant Within, by Anthony Robbins? Nope, you haven't heard that, and you won't.

"You can be anything you want to be!" That's what well-meaning parents and teachers told us when we were young, and there's a sliver of truth to it. If you want to be a basketball star, though, you'd better be on that trajectory by age ten or twelve. If you want to be a doctor, you need to have your act together by high school. If you want to be President of the United States, give up, you're way too late to start the work that might make it actually happen.

Giving up is good. That's my advice, speaking as a man who gave up a long time ago. Never got my shit together and never will, but I'll be leaving it all behind when I go, so it doesn't matter. If I'm not the man I always wanted to be, well, I'm the man I am, and I like him. If most of my dreams remain dreams, then I cheerfully fart on my dreams. In not too many years I'll be shuffling off this mortal coil, but that won't matter much either. I yawn at my mortality.

Here's what matters if life: Did you love someone, and did someone love you? Have you had some fun, shared some laughs, and helped a few people along the way? Did you make the world an ever-so-slightly, infinitesimally better place?

If you can answer these questions yes, please shake your own hand in congratulations. You're a success. Continue that success for as long as you can, and don't worry too much about getting your act together.



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