Growing up, my mother was a fan of collecting ceramic home decorative items. Thinking back, there were two that I thought about more than any other. I imagine that may have had to do with the fact that they were nailed above the toilet for many years. As a really active little boy, I drank a lot of water, which of course meant that I spent a lot of time standing in front of the toilet in direct view of those ceramic items.
It reads: “Stand Close, its Shorter than you think”
I would read that every time that I used the bathroom. As a child, it was pretty embarrassing to know that mom, and I presumed everyone else in the world, was aware of my biggest “shortcoming”. In fact, I would have been perfectly content if no one knew about my “little” secret.
You see, I was a pretty gifted child. Success came easy. Everyone knew me as the “smart kid”, since I had all the answers. I never did homework, and I finished my tests before everyone else in class, yet always received a score in the top 3 in class.
I never aimed for first place, not because I couldn’t do it, but because no one could explain to me how my GPA would benefit from me receiving a 100% score instead of the 97% that I could receive without trying. I realized as early as 3rd grade that a 90% score received the same 4-points for an “A”grade as a higher score would receive.
Noone could provide me the names of any colleges who were even remotely interested in the school grades a person received prior to 9th grade when they started high school.
I made a promise to myself to do the minimum amount of work necessary to average an A grade in all the subjects that I cared about, and to average a B grade in all other subjects. This was my biggest “shortcoming” – that despite the awards, accolades, recognition that I received, I wasn’t even trying. My “little” secret was that I was living life on cruise control – on autopilot, while still receiving 97% of the results of a person who was working 10 times harder than me.
While the 1 or 2 people who got a better score than me were working with a tutor after school, spending their nights at home doing homework, and their summers taking extra classes; I was dominating at video games, sucking at sports, and spending time with the people who meant the most to me.
When I read the phrase “stand close, it’s shorter than you think”, I took it to mean to develop close relationships, live life on the edge, and to always aim for the mountaintop when setting goals. We are constantly reminded about how brief the fall is on the way back to earth if we were to lose our footing, but I believe it is equally as important to stay intimately aware of how brief our visit here is on Earth, and how little of that time we allocate to spending on the things that make our lives worth living – it truly is shorter than we think.
“The fear of falling is natural, the fear of failing is artificial”……Nigel Johnson 05/27/2011
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