I left home at 17 and never went back. I was a freshman in college, working three jobs and playing basketball on a scholarship I had worked hard to earn on my own. I earned it with thousands of hours practicing my moves and shooting free throw after free throw. Basketball was my salvation, my religion, and my magnificent obsession. All I needed was a voice to sanctify my mission, echo my emotions, and validate my purpose. The year I graduated from high school, the voice I was looking for appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek the same week! The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, had arrived. He sang what I was feeling. His new book, Born to Run, came out this week. Bruce's honesty, authenticity, and ability to write shines through.
His new album, Chapter and Verse, also debuted this week.(He is the penultimate marketing maven!) The most haunting tune is "My Father's House." It's no secret that Bruce's father, a bitter, unsuccessful alcoholic, tormented his son. Bruce turned to music as his salvation. Over the last fifty years as a songwriter, guitar player, singer, and band leader delivering his legendary four-hour concerts, he has few equals. Now he can add best-selling author to his impressive list of accomplishments. He offers something powerful and cathartic: perspective. In his new book he writes:
Those whose love we wanted but could not get, we emulate. It is dangerous but it makes us feel closer, gives us an illusion of the intimacy we never had. It stakes our claim upon that which was rightfully ours but denied. In my 20s, as my song and my story began to take shape, I searched the voice I would blend with mine to do the telling. It is a moment when through creativity and will you can rework, repossess and rebirth the conflicting voices of your childhood, to turn them into something alive, powerful and seeking light. I'm a repairman. That part of my job. So I, who'd never done a week's worth of manual labor in my life...put on a factory worker's clothes, my father's clothes and went to work.
It's clear Mr. Springsteen has found some peace, some closure, some forgiveness.
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
We all make mistakes. Mistakes are forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.
Hating people is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat.
-Harry Emerson Fosdick
In 1953, Marlon Brando's breakout role was as a motorcycle gang leader in the film The Wild One. When asked what he was rebelling against, he replied,
What do ya' got?" Resentment and anger are habits of thought. They are an attitude. They are a way of life that ultimately shortens it.
It's taken me years to learn that I am powerless to control others. Moreover, I cannot stop them from doing things they choose to do. Let them take responsibility and the natural consequences of their behavior. Resentment will do nothing but tear us apart inside. No one ever found serenity through hatred. What if you were to make it a policy to have no grudges? Hostility keeps us tied to the abuses of the past. Seek compassion. Look beneath the surface. Understand that person deserves respect and unconditional love. Hate the behavior, but love the person.
Forgiveness is no favor. We do it for no one but ourselves. We simply pay too high a price when we refuse to forgive. Lingering resentments are like acid eating away at us. Reliving and rehearsing old grudges and wounds robs us of all that is precious. Shame and guilt never liberated a single spirit. Self-righteousness never softened a heart. Can we afford to perpetuate such self-destruction? Surely we can make better use of time and talent?
Now, when a client or friend is tangled up in a web of resentment, I ask them a simple question,
How is that working for you?" So forgive and move on. Move on to better and brighter things. Life is too short to Be-Little.
I lost a good friend five years ago. Ron Haight was 53. He and I went all the way back to the first grade. He would make me laugh in class and I would get in trouble. He seemed to always avoid the wrath of the teacher. We became friends when we were 11 years old, playing baseball for Gus Cooper. The night before I went into the military in 1976, Ron stopped by my parents' house to wish me well. I think he thought I was going off to war. I assured him it was just to Texas for basic training and I would be home for Christmas. Ron was thoughtful like that. He was smooth, very bright, loyal, and kind. Death makes life precious. It reminds us that this journey ends eventually for each of us. To quote Jim Morrison, "No one here gets out alive." How true. We just don't think it will happen to us. Here are some of my thoughts on the things Ron Haight taught me. I hope they help you.
- Heal any old wounds from your past. Forgive and forget. Let it go. When someone passes away, it's too late.
- Reach out to old childhood friends and get together with them on a regular basis, just to reminisce and laugh about past misdeeds.
- Hug your kids. When I told my youngest son, Evan, about Ron's passing, he stopped, gave me big hug, and told me he was sorry about my friend.
- Take the time to relax, slow down, and take in a sunset, a baby's smile, or a dog running on the beach with reckless abandon. If you are not careful, you'll miss it. They are the little joys of life.
- Take that exotic and expensive vacation you have been dreaming about. Do it. You never know. If you put it off, you might not ever get to Australia. That would be a shame. Everyone should get to see kangaroos boxing. It was my trip of a lifetime.
- Laugh every day. Look for and find the funny in life.
- Do what you love and you will never work another day in your life. Ron was in the roofing business for over 40 years. It was his vocation and his calling.
- Stop hanging around negative people. Anchors aweigh.
- Live every day as if it were your last; one day, you will be right.
- When something good happens, write it down. Take lots of pictures. When a loved one or an old friend is gone, it will help you remember the good times you had. Life is short. Seize the day.
Bruce Springsteen gave me permission 40 year ago. I was "Born to Run". All these year later, he is doing it again because now I am "Dying to Forgive."
Make it a great day-unless you have other plans.