I'm sure many of you reading this, possibly while wolfing down a fast-food lunch and surfing the Net during your lunch hour in your office will identify with my former tunnel vision.
It was the late eighties and I was perched on top of the world. It seemed like I was one of God's chosen people. Everything I touched turned to gold. My company, World Class Enterprises, was doing extremely well. My two latest books, were receiving outstanding reviews and were selling like hotcakes I was a feature writer for seven magazines and every day it seemed like another publication would call me to write for them. My athletic career was going great guns. I was named as one of the top ten lifters of the year by Powerlifting USA and I held all of the ADFPA National and American records.
In addition I was constantly being besieged for speaking engagements. I was in demand BIG TIME! And did that feed my ego!
It seemed like I had everything: a beautiful house, three cars, more money then I ever imagined possible, friends, fame and endless opportunities. Everything was so great and wondrous for me that I couldn't imagine it getting any better. Like I said I was literally on top of the world -- or was I?
All my friends said, "Man you are so lucky! You have it made!" Of course there was a price to be paid that required I rise early in the morning and immediately shift my body from first gear to fifth. From there I would grind it out for the rest of the day. To keep all this good fortune going required that everything I did had to be taken to the limit and, in this quest, I showed myself no mercy. I grabbed something to eat and sat down at my computer to read and write for another five or six hours. Actually it wasn't uncommon for me to sit working at my computer until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. It was nothing for me to get out of bed at four in the morning to write something that caught my mind while I was sleeping. Even my dreams were filled with my goals and work.
I functioned on the premise that there was no free ride in life; that if you want something you had to work for it. I firmly believed that nothing worthwhile came easy. In other words: you reaped what you sowed. If you were not willing to work, no one was going to help you, not even the Lord. Work was the price we all had to pay to travel the road to success.
Like Einstein said, "Work is the foundation of all business, the source of all success, and the parent of genius." That was my point of view and I followed it to the letter.
I had a work ethic that would have literally killed most people. I was totally driven. I was determined to get the most out of my life. I wasn't going to rust out -- I was going to wear out. By golly, I was going to matter! I was going to be somebody, accomplish things. I was determined to be the very best that I could be. I was going to be a person to be reckoned with -- someone important!
Believe me I sacrificed a lot in my attempt to accomplish all this. I hardly dated. I never drank, I constantly watched my diet and I worked my body and mind unmercifully because I thought that's what it took to be great. I believed with complete fanaticism that the highway to success was definitely a toll road. Everything in life had a price. If you were not willing to work, you would never achieve any real success in life. Consequently my basic philosophy of life was work hard, achieve success, and happiness will follow.
Why, even Aristotle pointed out long ago that true happiness resides in physical and mental activity, not in entertainment or amusement. Happiness comes from hard work and accomplishment, from performing acts in which we can take great pride in accomplishing.
William J. Bennett said basically the same thing: "Life's greatest joys are not what one does apart from the work of one's life, but with the work OF one's life." So did Einstein, J.F.K. and just about every other successful person in the world.
My days had no breaks. I taught school for six hours, then drove to the gym and trained for three more. From there I went home, In order to reach the pinnacle in any field you have to pay your dues. There is just no other way around it. Hard work was the secret to happiness because hard work lead to accomplishments and accomplishments lead to happiness. That was my belief system.
As I said I worked and I achieved and I was happy but there was also something missing. When I couldn't figure out what it was, rather than taking the time to investigate, I buried myself further in order to accomplish more and more. I clung with a death grip to my principle that work would lead to achievement and achievement would eventually lead to happiness.
I might have stayed that course if it had not been for an extremely poignant experience in my life.
My father was the man I respected most in my life. In fact I can honestly say that I never met a man that I admired and loved as much. For me, he represented everything that was right about this beautiful world of ours even though he had his flaws like everyone else.
Case in point: My father had been promising my mother for decades that he was going to take her back to Venice, Italy to tour the streets of their birth place. He would tell her, "We're going to go to Venice, rent the most magnificent gondola and experience the absolute beauty of Venetia." It was their dream and they talked about it often.
But every time they got ready to make the trip something came up that kept them from going. First it was money for the house, then money for their children's education; after that they started a business that required their time. It was one thing right after the other.
I'm sure you've already guessed what happened. My father who was built like a Greek god and who was healthy as a horse, unexpectedly and without warning, died.
And do you know what? My mother had to make her dream excursion to Italy by herself. She had to sit in that majestic gondola and tour the streets of Venice alone. My parents were supposed to have enjoyed that trip together. My father, who worked his entire life to support his family and give his children an education, never got to see his beautiful homeland.
My mother, who sacrificed so much for the same things, had to bear the pain of seeing it without the man she loved. This event taught me that life is uncertain; we need to enjoy it NOW.
From that day on I stopped telling myself that I was going to enjoy life later on. It was then that I realized that my rationale for not enjoying myself -- financial security, athletic and business success -- had kept me mired in joylessness. I also came to the realization that it is important to work hard but it is just as important to enjoy yourself. When you die God is not going to ask you how much money you have in your bank account or how many weightlifting titles you have.
Now I am not suggesting that life should be one big blast, or that we should experience heaven right here on earth. In fact, I'm convinced that people who equate happiness with fun have some misguided ideas about the true nature of happiness.
· The truth is that fun and happiness are barely related.
· Fun is a short-term feeling of pleasure that we experience during an event or act.
· Happiness is a long-term feeling of accomplishment and contentment that we experience after an event or act.
· Happiness is a more profound and enduring emotion than fun.
Still, joy and/or fun are essential for contentment and well-being. Joy nourishes self-esteem, and joyful people are more apt to like themselves, feel accountable for their behavior, and respect the rights and feelings of others.
Consequently joy is not something to be avoided but rather something to be pursued!
Life is not a dress rehearsal. We don't have forever. If you want life, you'd better live it now because, if you wait, it might not be there.
So put down that fast food burger and get out from behind your computer. I know you're expected to do your job; after all, that's what your employer is paying you for. But take your lunch hour and get out of your office.
Go take a walk and smell the roses, or have lunch with friends. And in between your work and your training, take time to develop a lasting love relationship, enjoy your kids and your friends. You even have my permission to just sit back with a beer and a bowl of popcorn now and again and do absolutely nothing.
Yours in strength,