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Do Exactly As I Say

March 17, 2010

Notable News from a Year Ago, February March 17, 2009: I’m returning from MULA (mandatory unpaid leave of absence), which, unbeknowst to me at the time, is the first of four such absences.

Left thumb jammed? No problem. There's another way to get this done.

It seems I was true to my word last week.  I said I wouldn’t write in my journal, and lo and behold, I didn’t.  Of course, I said this because of nobler goals of writing upwards for 30,000 words for The Twin Paradox (I only got around 10,000), but the fact is I said I would (or, in this case, wouldn’t) do something, and I’m not surprised that what I said and what I did are in exact harmony.

If you’ve been reading [this blog] thoroughly it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I would notice a thing like this about myself.  In an effect to tweak my internal guidance system, I am constantly recording my mental babble — parsing it, repeating it, monitoring my behavior in the aftermath like a psychosomatic forensic specialist.  And what I find most illuminating in this particular example of me not writing last week’s entry after saying I wouldn’t is that most times in my life, I do exactly as I say I, and no differently.

The examples in my life are numerous, but before I go into a few I want to mention something else that I’ve noticed about myself.  This enlightened period that I’m having now — the Dr. Wayne Dyer’s and Eckert Tolle’s, the stock market thinking, and even this bit about doing what I say — is stuff that I just naturally did growing up.

I’ve told this to my wife several times before, but I didn’t understand the universal laws growing up and yet I benefited from them anyway.  I think this is the case with most people — this is the case with universal laws.  The things I did as a youth that made people consider me gifted and intelligent I did because they felt like what I needed to be doing to get what I wanted.  I set specific goals and achieved them.  Straight A’s.  Starter on my high school basketball team.  Georgia Tech.  What I did worked.  I didn’t know why and didn’t think very hard about it, but I kept doing it over and over and over again.

I was a natural — let’s just put it like that.  I’m not trying to beat my chest about it.  Call it Beginner’s Luck if you want.  Let’s just take basketball as a specific example.  My left knee has always been weaker than my right knee, and I’ve known this for a while, probably since the sixth or seventh grade.  My goal, however, was to play varsity basketball, so without any coach ever telling me I started developing my left hand to make up for what I couldn’t do with my right: lay-ups, dribble, shooting.

By the time I was in the ninth grade people thought I was ambidextrous but that wasn’t really the case.  I could shoot with my left hand because I told myself if I wanted to play varsity I didn’t have a choice not to.  The first time I dunked in a basketball game in the ninth grade, I did it left-handed.  People were amazed:  Wow!  You did that left-handed! I didn’t say anything.  I knew it was the only way that dunk was getting done.

But that’s just the beginning of this analogy, only the first what of what made me a “natural”.

I wasn’t what you would call a “good” basketball player in the ninth and tenth grade; what I had was instinct.  I had a very developed left hand at close range, but otherwise, I couldn’t shoot.  In fact, one of my deadliest weapons before I hurt my left shoulder in the eleventh grade was an unconscious left-handed hook shot.  That’s right, I said unconscious.

I had never really practiced the shot but one day I did it during a scrimmage and it felt good and I didn’t ask questions, I kept doing it.  In games, I never planned to do a left-handed hook; I felt when the shot was called for, allowed the feeling to take over me, and the high majority of the time the shot went it.  I did that with the majority of my scoring in the ninth and tenth grades, and even some in the eleventh: I did whatever that little voice inside of me told me I needed to do, without question.  It worked on offense and defense.  People thought I had talent.

It was a powerful tool, but an erratic one.  I scored the most points I ever had in high school — 31 — in the tenth grade.  The next game I think I had 6.  I didn’t actually take it upon myself to develop an outside shot whose accuracy wasn’t dependent on my consciousness level until I was a senior.  This was after I hurt my left shoulder, of course.  I couldn’t ascend to the proper level to shoot the unconscious left hook after the injury; I needed a new weapon.  So that summer, after attending a basketball camp in Scottsdale, Alabama I developed one.  Again, it was me saying I had no choice but to do something, whatever it is, and then doing it to moderate success.  It’s a pattern in my life.

Hidden in the do as I say pattern, however, is something less obvious, but one I recognize.  It’s a byproduct of maturity more than likely, but I miss that state of mind in the ninth and tenth grade where, even though I knew I had limitations (like with the undiagnosed osteochondritis diseccans in both knees) I could see boundless opportunity in other areas.  I miss that stream-of-consciousness existence on the basketball court where preparation and opportunity merge and thinking is a hindrance.

But although I’m no longer a basketball player, I like to think that I’m learning to shoot with my left hand for the first time all over again.  The things that I’m working toward — the stock market, the writing — the things I’ve told myself I have no choice but to master — are just more examples of me doing what I say I’m going to do.  And whenever I do that I’m finding bountiful opportunities where, at first, no opportunity seemed to exist.  This is the way to live, I believe.

This is why you play the game.

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