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80% of Life is Showing Up

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My favourite philosopher and great thinker/doer never lived in ancient Greece or Rome like Aristotle or Cicero. He never conquered a nation like Napoleon or Hitler. He never started a society-shaping company like Steve Jobs or Henry Ford.

Philosophers come in different shapes, genders, sizes and spring forth in every era with their shrewd and perceptive observations.

You might even consider Joan Rivers as a late, great philosopher of the recent epoch.

But for today’s post, who is this orgasmically-astute philosopher I’m referring to?

Woody Allen

Yup, the little neurotic pessimist.

Like so many others I reluctantly admire for their accomplishments (Lance Armstrong, Kevin Spacey, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump) I don’t necessarily like Woody Allen as an individual mortal.

He’s not a perfect person. I identify.

He has weaknesses and has made some poor choices. I identify.

To all appearances, he’s just an ordinary schmuck with nothing to physically separate him from the masses on a busy city sidewalk. I identify.

Some would say that being an asshole is a requirement for great accomplishments. I don’t know the answer to that one yet for sure although it seems to me there are some creative geniuses who shine as delightful human beings as well.

BUT …

Allen’s written 49 movie screenplays: directed 46 of those: acted in all but 17 of them: he’s produced some documentaries: guest hosted the Tonight Show in the 1960’s: written 3 books …  AND …  he crafts amazingly clever perspectives on the absurdities of the lives we lead.

Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as far as meaningless experiences go its pretty damn good.

 

Basically my wife was immature. I’d be at home in the bath and she’d come in and sink my boats.

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Some of the wisest words that I’ve ever come across about making a mark in life were spoken in an interview Woody gave a few years back after finishing his movie, Vicki Christina Barcelona. This is a long passage, but each sentence has a powerful message, so I’m giving you a big chunk to absorb, OK?

 I think that the biggest life lesson I learned as a boy that has helped me and is still with me is that you really have to discipline yourself to do the work.  

If you want to accomplish something you can’t spend a lot of time hemming and hawing, putting it off, making excuses for yourself, and figuring ways.  You have to actually do it.  

I have to go home every single day, no matter where I am in the world, no matter what I’m doing, and putting 30 to 45 minutes of practice on my clarinet because I want to play.  I have to do it.

When I want to write, you get up in the morning, go in and close the door and write.  You can’t string paper clips, and get your pad ready, and turn your phone off, and get this, get coffee made. You have to do the stuff.

Everything in life turns out to be a distraction from the real thing you want to do.  There are a million distractions and when I was a kid I was very disciplined.  I knew that the other kids weren’t.  I was the one able to do the thing, not because I had more talent, maybe less, but because they simply weren’t applying themselves.  

As a kid I wanted to do magic tricks.  I could sit endlessly in front of mirror, practicing, practicing, because I knew if you wanted to do the tricks you’ve got to do the thing.  I did that with the clarinet, when I was teaching, I did that with writing.  

This is the most important thing in my life because I see people striking out all the time.  It’s not because they don’t have talent, or because they don’t want to be, but because they don’t put the work in to do it.  They don’t have the discipline to do it.  This was something I learned myself.  

I also had a very strict mother who was no nonsense about that stuff.  She said ‘If you don’t do it, then you aren’t going to be able to do the thing.’  

It’s as simple as that.  

I said this to my daughter, if you don’t practice the guitar, when you get older you wouldn’t be able to play it.  It’s that simple.  If you want to play the guitar, you put a half hour in everyday, but you have to do it.  

This has been the biggest guiding principle in my life when I was younger and it stuck.  

I made the statement years ago which is often quoted that 80 percent of life is showing up.  

People used to always say to me that they wanted to write a play, they wanted to write a movie, they wanted to write a novel, and the couple of people that did it were 80 percent of the way to having something happen.  All the other people struck out without ever getting that pack.  They couldn’t do it, that’s why they don’t accomplish a thing, they don’t do the thing, so once you do it, if you actually write your film script, or write your novel, you are more than half way towards something good happening.  

So that is my biggest life lesson that has worked.  All others have failed me.

 

Thanks for that Woody, I couldn’t have said it any better.

I like to accomplish things, but I also lean heavily towards laziness … such a conundrum.

I’d like to stretch and attain a height of 6 ft tall but I’m too lax to go and get myself a hanging rack to lengthen my spine, so I’m stuck at 5’10 1/2″. Also, my goal of running a sub-40 minute 10K run, will just have to roll into the grave – sorry – cremation oven along with me.

Sad? Not really.

There are so many other wonderful things to focus on … and so many of them are attainable still. I’m going to leave some of those truly unattainable dreams behind and move forward with what I can do.

It’s not a failure to discard some goals and dreams, adjust course, and move on with others. It’s not a mutually exclusive thing for Dreamers to also be Realists.

One day I’ll grow sick and die.

The plaques in my arteries and little bastard cancer cells are setting up camp somewhere, adjusting their little tuxedoes, just waiting for the curtain to rise and make a special announcement.

Now is not the time to perch in my leather LazyBoy and watch the clock in anticipation. Like a boiling kettle, the Grim Reaper will come in his own time without my assistance, or invitation.

So, the race is on. The finish line banner is in place and it’s up to me to keep putting one foot in front of the other with daily practice and enthusiasm.

I’m gonna grab that sage old philosopher Woody Allen’s hand, SHOW UP AND PRACTICE.

And, no offense Woody, but as much as I admire your witticisms and accomplishments, I hope you make to the final finish line well ahead of me.

I need a lot more practice!

How Would YOU Like to Die?

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DeathofLenin

Amazing…LENIN (Vladimir…not John!) tastes just as good today as the day he died 88 years ago)

Woody Allen probably speaks for most of us when he says,

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.”

What I Would Like to Die From

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Isn’t it a profoundly sad statement – you know – that we’re all going to die? Isn’t it? I still have some denial issues to sort out on this whole matter. What, ME die?  I only know for sure that YOU are going to die!

From the day that we become cognizant of who we are and what we are, the certainty of knowing that death awaits is firmly implanted in our minds. Strangely, there are few things that we can be so certain of in this world…I know -you’re right- DEATH and TAXES!

We don’t know if we’ll be hit by an unpredicted asteroid some day. We don’t know if we’ll marry Lady Gaga or Steven Tyler (YUK on both counts). Unknown is the number of X-Box addicted children that will be born to us; the means by which we’ll earn our meagre living is a mystery. DEATH we know.

Yet, despite knowing this, we try to fool and delude ourselves that we might somehow avoid the last nasty!

EVERY single living human on this earth, both now and in the past, has known that one day in the future, near or far, they will draw their last breath and become “living-challenged”. There are no exceptions; no amount of money, no fame or glory, no success makes it avoidable. No child has been born into the world whose parents have lived on and on forever. Of course, always an optimist, I’m still researching a way around it for me!

And so, for most of us- religious or not- death is something to be feared and sidestepped at all costs. Humans have an instinct for survival whether they believe in an afterlife or a finality of all at death. We search for a movie with happy endings, but life’s cinema always concludes with the credits, “THE END”.

FunnyDeathtombstone

(This will be my tombstone…)

We use genteel euphemisms to make it sound more pleasant and agreeable, almost delightful:

  • Passed away
  • Departed
  • Asleep
  • With God
  • Eternal rest
  • Into the good night
  • Resting in Peace

I’m not fooled – dead is dead. So now, as I age and begin in some small way to accept the inevitable, I want to at least have some control and decision-making power in how my end comes to begin.  No surprises, no great dramas please.

Many people I speak with say that they want the end to come suddenly and unannounced. To drop dead of a heart attack or stroke that fells them in an instant would be great. No wrenching pain. No fearful dread. No drawn-out anticipating, just short and sweet and done with, like a Tim Bit (sorry, for non-Canadians, this is like a donut hole!). Flopping dead on the street is a great way to wind it up, or so some believe.

My mother collapsed onto the hard, cool, asphalt driveway of our house on a lovely spring evening when I was 15, her heart and breathing stopping suddenly. I watched helplessly, panic-stricken, as she drew her last breath. No goodbye or words were exchanged to end our connection. It was TOO sudden. It wasn’t fair. In 5 minutes, my young life was colossally changed (and sadly, her’s ended). Sorry, this is not for me. I want some closure and this isn’t the way to do it.

The polar opposite of this sudden, unexpected death scenario I suppose is the horror and anxiety that comes with a long, drawn out and painful cancer or ALS-like demise. Being terminally ill (or sick at all) is frightening and wretched. I don’t think I’ve heard any person suggest that this would be the way that they want to spend their final days. Many many have experienced this play out with a friend or relative, and the encounter with this grim reaper rarely seems like a positive way to say goodbye. The pain and torture also cuts into the bedside survivors like a knife blade.

Death shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it doesn’t need months or years to finish up. After all, it’s not the Stanley Cup playoffs (NOTE: Sorry again non-Canadians! I’ve got to get away from ice hockey references…please suggest some cricket or football references that I can use.) I’m seeking a happy death medium.

So, for me at least, the end should be relatively brief but not a complete surprise. I want to have a chance to know the life I’ve lived is finishing.

GoodNightGoodLuck

I want to say goodbye.

I want to reflect on what life has meant.

I want those around me to have an opportunity to share their dreams and feelings before I go.

Very few of us can bring ourselves to say the things we truly feel about our loved ones without some threat of their departure from our lives. Kind of like divorce, I understand!

We’ve all had experiences with death – some likely positive and life-affirming, and others that were nightmarish horror stories. It will come for you and for me, one day, near or distant.

So, if you had the power to choose, How Would YOU Like To Die?

The last word here goes to the great philosopher Woody Allen,

I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

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DeathbyText