–Robin Williams, Patch Adams
While the loss of Robin Williams is tragic, we must remember the innumerable lessons in happiness, cheer, comedy, and laughter that he taught to us, sometimes, as in Dead Poets Society, quite literally. He played some of the most iconic characters to ever have touched our hearts, like Peter Pan who taught us to never grow up, and Patch Adams, for whom laughter was the best medicine. Mrs. Doubtfire exemplified that our parents will always be there for us, but even Genie couldn’t bring people back from the dead.
“The most radical act anyone can commit is to be happy.” And I hope that you delight in stirring glee in someone else’s heart by making them smile, and laugh, and roll their eyes because, in his words, “you’re only given a little of madness. You must not lose it.”
In the morning, light pours into my bedroom. It’s kind of a pain to fall asleep with the blinds open and the curtains pulled back, but it’s worth it to be greeted by light. Then, for me, it’s baked oatmeal and one shot of espresso. I’m not a morning person, and I probably haven’t had a single thought about anything worth remembering until I’ve begun to absorb some caffeine. A quick aside- I’ve never understood why people don’t drink more espresso, is it the whip cream thing? And then, a clean shave. I (almost) always use a sharp razor, not a Gillette, and have replaced that blue goop with fluffy and fragrant lavender shave soap applied by a badger hair shave brush.
I’m sharing my routine with you, because I’ve found that from the first ray of sunshine to the first bite of oatmeal, the last sip of espresso to the last bit of shave soap, I tend to concentrate on how lucky I am to enjoy these little luxuries. They are simple joys. When you appreciate your situation first thing in the morning, you start the day off right. And when you start the day off right, the rest of the day tends to follow suit.
If you’re a snooze button 12 times, rush out of bed and into the car to sit in traffic on the way to the job you dread kind of person, consider what you give up each morning. You’ve missed the chance to be gracious, to take a few minutes to yourself to think about your day, to think about what you can do for someone else today. By the time you’re expressing you’re road rage, you’ve given up the chance to work out that day or your opportunity to reflect in your journal. Approaching the beginning of your day differently might change your outlook on school or work, especially if you’ve taken a few minutes to give thanks that you have gainful employment and think about how you can make a difference at work that day. An improved outlook is often the key to improved performance.
So much of this blog is about having a positive and gracious attitude. The reason is simple- life is better that way. The time to establish that attitude is first thing in the morning.
It’s not really our style to write without a quote or clip for inspiration. But I’ve been struggling with writer’s block all year, and today my VP of Operations shared a metaphor that I knew I had to pass on to you.
Consider a man standing face to face with an elephant. When you ask him to describe his experience, he says that when the elephant flaps his giant ears, the man is cooled by the breeze. He describes looking past the long lashes and into the eyes, into the gentle and wise soul of his huge companion. He describes being wrapped in the pachyderm’s powerful trunk and passing handfuls of peanuts through the ivory tusks and into the mammoth mouth.
Now consider a second man who is standing on the wrong side of the same elephant. When he tells his tale (pun intended) he says “It’s a giant butt. No really…it’s just a giant butt. Baby got back. Yesterday, this thing peed, and I about drowned. It pooped, and I’m still looking for my car. It stinks. A lot.”
Empathy is seeing the whole elephant. When you’re standing up front, don’t forget that it’s not all motherhood and apple pie. Somebody’s standing on the other side and dealing with the consequences of the actions taken at the front. The view’s not so magnificent, and they’re going to want to join you up front soon. When you’re standing on the back-side, consider what’s going on up front. When is it your turn to take over at the helm? When you’re up front, wouldn’t you want to be sure that someone was going to clean up the peanuts from the other side? Empathy is about seeing the whole elephant.
–A Knight’s Tale
You might be knocked off your horse or take a lance to the face. Some days you might feel like a blind thatcher’s son, and some days you might think you’re living in the dark-ages. Pick yourself up off the ground. Let the lance roll off your armor. Embrace your father, and be inspired by your contemporaries.
I think this is something that most 20-somethings have to learn first hand and that a lot of older folks need life to remind them of down the road. The good news is that we are all learning these disciplines together.