by Alton Gansky
The new year has arrived and is already two days old. The holidays bob in time’s wake and a dozen fresh, new months are laid before us. The yielding of one year to another, of course, is a convenience of imagination. Nothing really changes. The Sun will shine with the same intensity it did on the last day of 2012, as it did on the last day of the year 1012. All that changes is the number we use, yet the switch is somehow remarkable.
It is especially remarkable for me. For some reason, I hold New Year’s Day in special importance. Perhaps more than others. Maybe it’s because I’m one of those “sign post” people; those folks who measure distance by every sign post, progress by every achievement or completed task.
So once again, we’ve crossed the threshold of a new year, and like the Roman double-faced god Janus (for whom January is named) look in two directions. As 2013 turned on the street that leads to my home, I found myself thinking about what I want to do in the next year and how I am going to achieve it. I have some ideas—too many ideas. My multifaceted mind (read that as “fragmented brain”) has more thoughts and ideas than a Ringling Brothers clown car has red-nosed, occupants with way-to-big shoes—and my ideas can be just as chaotic
That’s all right. Most of the time, I like it that way. I’ve learned that for me to have one good idea, I have to wade through a pile of not-so-good ones. I’m afraid I don’t know a better way.
Attempting to corral my mind is like herding cats. Still I try to and in the process I’ve revisited three of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt. TR has been an inspiration to me for many years. I doubt we could have been friends even if we lived at the same time and I occupied the same social strata as he. He was a man always out to prove something. A writer, adventurer, rancher, police commissioner, children’s rights advocate, soldier, governor, assistant Secretary of the Navy, vice president of the United States, and finally the youngest man ever to serve this country as president (don’t write, JFK was the youngest elected president—TR came to office on the death of McKinley).
The phrase “high achiever” is an understatement when applied to TR.
On criticism, he said:
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
On reading, he said:
“I am a part of everything that I have read.”
And on something we all need, he said:
“The one quality which sets one man apart from another—the key which lifts one to every aspiration while others are caught up in the mire of mediocrity—is not talent, formal education, nor intellectual brightness—it is self-discipline. With self-discipline, all things are possible. Without it, even the simplest goal can seem like the impossible dream.”
May 2013 be filled with fewer critics, more books, and lots of steaming hot self-discipline.