Success … 3-2-1-Quote Me

Thanks very much to Jim Adams and his “New Epic Author” site for nominating me to do this “guest” spot for 3-2-1-Quote Me ! The topic I was asked to write about is a good one, one at the core of pretty much all that we do … Success!

Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” So quipped someone who knew a thing of two about succeeding, Thomas Edison. The older I get, the more I think it true.

Sure, “Mr. Invention” was a success like few before or after him. There was the light bulb, of course, as well as the record player, movie cameras, the first movie studio, the telegraph machine (the rights for which Western Union bought from him for $10 000 back in the 19th Century)… and well over 1000 other patents. Each one of those innovations came easily to him through that spark of genius and imagination that he seemed to have an bottomless well of..

Unfortunately, this is not at all true. For the lightbulb, for example, he had the idea then spent at least a year trying all sorts of things which didn’t work – Rutgers University put the number of failed attempts at a minimum of 2774. Eventually he came up with a bamboo filament, which still needed to be improved upon to get the common tungsten-filament bulb we grew up with. It led Edison to famously quip, “I haven’t failed. I just found 10 000 ways that won’t work!”. About 20 years later, he lost much of his wealth trying to create an inexpensive machine to separate iron ore from other rock. He never found that one way that did work. As Smithsonian note, he “was not a guy that look(ed) back or spend a lot of time wringing his hands.” There was always another idea, another experiment that was more important than wallowing in self-pity of the defeat.

It’s obvious to see but difficult to live. Those who succeed don’t give up. This month the St. Louis Blues won their first Stanley Cup (hockey championship) in their fifty-plus years. Which is noteworthy mainly because on Jan.3, about midway through the season, they were dead last in the league. Thirty-first in a 31 team leauge. They ended the 2018 calendar year with 15 wins and 22 losses. Soon they’d go on a winning streak and win two thirds of their remaining 45 games before grinding through four series in the playoffs, three of which they were underdogs in, to finally win it all. Ten percent inspiration : “hey guys, we’re really better than that scoreboard shows. We could really be good!” Ninety percent perspiration. Putting in that work, the extra practises, the belief from the management down to the lowliest of bench warmers.

It’s darn near a universal. I’m not saying you can do anything you set out to do. If you’re a 70 year-old born in Brazil, you are not going to find yourself the President of the United States come November of next year. But you might just be able to affect the outcome more than you would expect if you set out to “Edison” on what will work. Finding that new girlfriend/boyfriend, making the relationship with the one you already have spectcular, that promotion at work… they can be yours if you are willing to “sweat” a little once you understand what it is you want.

If you don’t think so, consider how many people in the arena last New Year’s Eve besides the players themselves, believed the Blues could be drinking from the Stanley Cup six months later. What mattered was the players believed and like Edison, worked to keep finding new ways to win once they found the ways which didn’t. It’s advice I need to put to work myself. I, like so many other artists and bloggers, have a manuscript for a novel on my laptop. I edit and re-edit and think it’s quite good frankly. That’s the 10%. Now I need to put in that 90%, the perspiration to get it from my desk into other people’s hands and minds.

The challenge asked that I use two quotes on the subject, so I add another one that I think is even more important to take to heart than Thomas Edison’s:

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

That kind of sums it all up, doesn’t it? Maybe you’re a greeter at a superstore, wearing a corporate smock and making nine bucks an hour. Maybe your relatives nag you and say you could be the store manager if you buckled down. Maybe your ex says you should never have stopped playing bagpipes – you could’ve been the Celtic highlander equivalent of Eric Clapton by now. All that matters not one whit… if you’re happy. If you like your job, your role, the situation you are in, don’t let anyone else tell you it’s not good enough. You’re succeeding.

But if you don’t like that job, that situation… then you need to get working to make it right. Maybe it’s putting in for that promotion. Maybe it’s applying elsewhere. Maybe it’s asking that cutie on cash for a date. Maybe it’s picking up the bagpipes.

All in all, maybe that’s the answer to the meaning of life. Figuring out just what you are happy with, what could be better and then being like Edison, finding the way to make it so, even if it means finding 10 000 ways not to.

PS- the answer probably isn’t bagpipes!

The Basketball Diary

I’m Canadian but baseball’s always been “my” sport. I love watching it, love reading about it, even liked playing it years ago. My teammates back when I played on a very amateur beer league company team many summers back probably didn’t love me playing as much. I could make contact at bat reasonably well, but had a hard time driving the ball out of the infield and I couldn’t catch a darn thing – not the eye of any cute female players let alone a pop fly.

Anyhow, being from the Great White North, people usually assume I’m obsessed with hockey. I’m not, but I am passably acquainted with it. I used to collect hockey cards as a kid and I don’t mind watching a game if I’m in a room and someone else is watching. American football doesn’t do much for me and it seems pathetically slow with all the whistles and time outs but at least I have a vague understanding of it and now and again might have an exciting touchdown run. And there is the prospect of cheerleaders in the down time! Soccer was fun enough to play when little but doesn’t do much for me as a spectator sport. And then there’s basketball.

Basketball has always been my least favorite of the “major” team sports over here. They used to try and get us to play it in high school gym; I couldn’t sink a basket standing still and had no clue who I was supposed to block or cover. Watching it to me would only have appeal if I was immobilized and there were no comedies, other sports, true crime dramas or real time documentaries about paint drying on rival channels.

That said, my old town’s team is doing alright for themselves this year and I can’t quite help but be a little excited at least. The Toronto Raptors are two games away from winning their first NBA Championship and the first one ever to be won by a team from outside of the USA. Although I’m not in Ontario this summer, I can tell from the wonderful invention that is “social media” that the city is going Hoops Crazy. A team that once was an afterthought to the local media and a source of derision if anything at all to most of the populace (when they had cartoon dinosaur logos and unconventional color palettes they were an easy target for jokes) is now the toast of the town. Good for them and good for Toronto! Go Raptors!

The finals have been “marred” by an incident during the last game in California when a “fan” shoved Raptors star Kyle Lowry a little and probably mouthed off to him.It  turns out the “fan” was a co-owner of the home team Golden State Warriors named Mark Stevens, and it’s fast becoming the shove heard ’round the world. The NBA quickly banned Stevens from all games for a year, fined him half a million dollars and are deciding whether or not he should be forced to sell his part of his club. The game’s biggest star, LeBron James has reacted loudly to the event saying “swift action” was needed to reprimand Stevens and there is “absolutely no place in our beautiful game for all that.”

To me it’s much ado about nothing. Almost at least. An overblown brouhaha… but one which raises questions nonetheless. Viewing the tape of the event, it shows Lowry chasing a ball falling (or diving into) the crowd as basketball players often do, with Stevens leaning over and pushing Lowry away, ostensibly mouthing off to him all the while. He didn’t deck the player in the face, didn’t kick him, didn’t grab his arm and twist it. It was a rather benign push. Nevertheless, Stevens was clearly out of line. He should have minded his own business and unless the player landed on top of him, left well enough alone and not leaned over to push. He deserves some sort of penalty, but not the scorn and wrath of an entire nation.

To me though it raises a much bigger question that no one is asking: why in the world does basketball have fans sitting essentially on the playing surface? It’s the only popular sport in North America that has fans in such close proximity to the players and action. Seats are lined up right along the very edge of the tiny 94′ long court, with no walls, nets or buffers to protect fans from players who lose sight of where they are and run like bulls into the crowd trying to get a ball or block an opponent. Such things happen routinely. In 2015 the New York Times ran an article about it after golf star Jason Day’s wife Ellie was hospitalized with a concussion after a similar mishap in Cleveland when LeBron crashed into her and knocked over her seat chasing a ball. I’m not saying it’s LeBron’s fault. He was merely playing the game as hard as he could, trying to win, like he should. But the star is 6 foot 8, weighs in around 260… and isn’t even the biggest man on the court most nights. Who wants a guy that size crashing on to them unexpectedly?

Granted, no one’s been killed yet from such an accident unlike baseball or hockey or worse yet, car racing with flying projectiles (frozen pucks, hard-hit foul balls, wrecked cars going over 100 MPH) careening into the stands. But hockey has boards to rein in the players and plexiglass above them to try and protect fans from errant pucks. Baseball stadiums usually have a wide area of “foul territory” between the diamond and the stands and has begun putting up fish netting close to the home plate to stop balls flying at high speed into fans’ heads too quickly for a person to react. It would be absurd to have chairs on the ice for fans in hockey or to let NASCAR fans stand on the edge of the pavement as cars speed by them at 180. Baseball, with fans sitting 80 feet or more away from the action and protective netting is taking flak again this month after a small girl got hit in the head by a fly ball off the bat of a visibly distraught Albert Amonte. Come on basketball – don’t wait until some little girl gets flattened by a 300 pound player running full out, or equally frightening, for a player to be attacked by an armed and disgruntled front row fan before it gets with the program. Fans are there to see the game, not be part of it.

Oh… and by the way… Go Raptors!