As a 5-year-old kindergarten student, I visited the principal’s office on a weekly basis. When the call came over the intercom to summon me there, I was excited to go. Every trip was the same. I’d be ushered in, handed a book, and read it to our school’s principal. Most of the time it was a children’s storybook, but sometimes he would ask me to read him an article from the newspaper. He was a lifelong educator and enjoyed the novelty of having a kindergartener read to him. I wasn’t exactly reading War & Peace, but it was a few levels above “See Dick run.” Plus it got me out of class, which I appreciated even then.
I learned to read when I was three. My mom found out the hard way. She was talking to my grandma about Christmas presents and because I was in the room, decided to spell mine out. “I got Mike a T-O-N-K-A, T-R-U-C-K.” Unable to contain my excitement as that was exactly what I had asked for, I shouted out, “I’m getting a Tonka Truck!” My mom blurted out a scolding, “Michael Wayne!” before she fell into a fit of laughter as she realized what had just happened.
This reading habit has stuck with me for well over 45 years now, and in the past several months a sad realization dawned on me.
I’ve wasted a lifetime of reading.
“Become a millionaire not for the million dollars, but for what it will make of you to achieve it. After you become a millionaire, you can give all of your money away because what’s important is not the million dollars; what’s important is the person you have become in the process of becoming a millionaire.”
~ Jim Rohn
This is an important lesson to remember anytime we set out to accomplish a goal of significance. A strong commitment towards goal achievement is a worthy endeavor, but in the process don’t forget that the striving is the most significant part. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we fall short of the mark, and sometimes we even exceed our intention. Win or lose, it’s the effort that remains with us. Even when we accomplish or exceed our goal, the end result can be fleeting while the change in us, manifested by our efforts, is permanent.
Towards the end of every episode of his wildly popular podcast, Tim Ferriss asks guests a series of questions he labels “Rapid-fire.” They’re basically the same set for every guest so each interviewee has a few questions they can prepare for. One of his standard questions is:
“If you could put one billboard anywhere, with anything on it, where would it be and what would it say?”
I loved Derek Sivers’s answer to this question (“It won’t make you happy,” and he would place his billboard outside of any big shopping mall or car dealership). It has since become my new mantra before making any discretionary purchase.
“Clutter has only two possible causes: too much effort is required to put things away or it is unclear where things belong.” ~ Marie Kondo
The calendar has flipped and it’s time for a new title in MWD’s Bestowed Book-O-the-Month. For May of 2017, I’m giving away a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. This book was a runaway hit in 2015, has sold more than 2 million copies, is in its 56th printing, and has launched an entire “Tidying Up” industry for Kondo, who now has 4 titles connected to her “KonMari Method.”
In late February of 1946, Raytheon engineer Rod Spencer went to work with a peanut cluster bar in his pants. The snack was not for him. He liked to break the bar apart and feed it to the squirrels and chipmunks during his lunch break.
On this particular day, Spencer’s furry little friends went hungry. He was working on a military- grade magnetron when he realized the peanut cluster bar had melted in his pocket. Curious, Spencer grabbed an egg and placed it underneath the vacuum tube of the magnetron where it promptly exploded, covering the excited engineer in warm egg. The following day Spencer amazed his co-workers with history’s first batch of microwave popcorn. A new appliance had been invented, and a year later a $10-billion-dollar industry was launched.
Million dollar ideas probably cross paths with each of us on a regular basis. But there’s a reason not everyone is a millionaire. There’s a reason opportunity runs into us and never leaves a mark. In fact, I think there are three:
Someone once told me that one of the ways you can judge a person is by comparing the size of their television to the size of their library. I love movies so I’ll admit to owning a ridiculously sized tv. But I love books even more than movies so the size of my library dwarfs the size of my television. The tv was purchased three years ago. My book collection started when I was three years old.
Though it’s tempting to make the transition to digital books – note-taking would be decidedly easier, and I could take my entire library with me everywhere I go – I still can’t resist the allure of the physical book, which in my mind is still the most perfect piece of technology ever invented. It never needs recharged, the operating system is always up to date, a book requires no internet connection, and the amount of data storage for its size has only recently been eclipsed after holding the record for about a millennium.
Earlier this year on January 17th, with no warning whatsoever and with no reason given, I was fired from the job I’d been at for over 6 years. I can’t say I was surprised, however, as I swung the axe myself.
The idea was born as I sat on my deck, appreciating all that my wife and I have worked for, and the thought struck me: what if I lost my job tomorrow? What would we do?
As we walked back to the car after eating at our favorite local Tex-Mex restaurant, the entire family came to a dead stop and stared at an SUV parked close to ours.
My oldest son spoke first.
“Dad, I think this guy needs a new Plan B.”
One hundred and seven years ago yesterday, barely one year removed from his second term as President of the United States and less than a decade before his untimely death from a blood clot at age 60, Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech to a crowd of thousands at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. The title of the hour-long speech was “Citizenship in a Republic,” but it’s a brief segment of that talk that is still remembered today. For a man who put across more than his fair share of memorable speeches, the short segment now referred to as “The Man in the Arena” may be Teddy’s best-remembered words.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
These words struck a major chord with me the first time I read them and that chord continues to reverberate throughout my life. It’s the only speech I’ve ever ordered a framed copy of, and I fight the temptation to allude to it in everything I write. But on the anniversary of the originating speech I thought it fitting to honor the man and his words.
Thank you, Teddy. Thank you for being a man who lived the strenuous life, a man unafraid to be marred with dust and sweat and blood, a man unafraid to stumble, a man who dared greatly, and for being a man who boldly marched into every arena you sought to conquer.
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There’s only one thing better than reading a great book for the first time; reading a great book for the first time for free.
For the Bestowed Book-O-the-Month, I’m giving away a book to one lucky winner randomly drawn from subscribers of my email newsletter. This giveaway will be a new copy of something I’ve read within the last 24 months so I can make sure I’m passing along a title I would recommend people spend their own hard-earned money on. I’ll also include a page (or two or three – depending on the book) of notes I took while reading the book.