The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, March 23, 2009

Fear of dying on a treadmill

Will Smith on the Laws of Success

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pke9gEZfJXk

The most interesting quote: "the only thing different about me is that I'm not afraid of dying on a treadmill."

Remember Arnold Swarzenegger's laws of personal success?

1) Have clearer goals than anyone else

2) Believe in yourself more than anyone else.

3) Work harder than anyone else.

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One way or another, I have heard the same words from so many different directions, whenever I run into people who have built companies, changed public opinion, conquered adversity, transformed their lives, built empires of art or science. Not "talent" or "luck" or even "intelligence." But laserlike, monomaniacal focus. And in my mind, the only thing it is safe to focus on that way, if you want to have a life in this world, is balance. Even focusing on God can lead to isolation and inability to function for family or society, lead to self-righteous prejudice and an acceptance of suffering in others. Seen too much of that.

Never met Smith, but know people who know him (somewhat) and he did walk past me at the Image Awards. Wish my aura reading had been up to snuff. My guess is that it would be as clear as I imagine Bruce Lee's was. Actually...more. Lee was off balance. At his level of physical energy, Lee should have been living in a monastery somewhere, instead of living the movie-star life, with all of the negatives that that implies.

"I'm not afraid to die on a treadmill." That is a level of clarity that most human beings can only marvel at. And anyone with that kind of clarity will produce results others consider magical.

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Smith's clarity recalls the passage at the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita, where Arjuna is guilty that he may be about to cause the death of his cousins and brothers and friends, by commensing a great battle. One interpretation is rather literal, that in life there are obligations, and we must address them regardless of the temporary pain: we all have our position in life, and must fulfill it.

That's interesting...the interp I prefer goes for an inner meaning, that there is an enormous Parts Party going on, and Arjuna has to be above the screaming and the blood--because it all symbolizes his own aspects, especially those that cling to life, and keep him from reaching his full development as a spiritual being.

I remember I used to run on the track at Pepperdine University. At around a mile and a half, my body would give me all kinds of "you're about to die" symptoms. Because my doctor had said I was perfectly healthy, I decided to ignore those feelings. In fact, my attitude was: "if I'd die running, I'd probably die later today anyway. If I die, let me die living my life on my terms."

And what do you know? At about 2.5 miles, after several minutes of suffering...the pain went away. And I got into a new groove, second wind. And as days went past, although the barrier was always there, it grew thinner and thinner, with less and less suffering...until one day it was just voices and phantom aches that never really manifested at all. That was great. I loved it. Never really went above running five miles three times a week, but that was all I needed, and it powered every other aspect of my life.

Not afraid to die on a treadmill. Not afraid to be laughed at. Not afraid to be first. Not afraid to exceed society''s expectations. Not afraid to speak an unpopular truth. Not afraid to have faith in things for which I have little or no logical proof. You gotta learn to trust your hunches. And what mine tell me is that most of the voices saying "stop!" are lying to us, when going forward represents growth and strength. But damn, those voices can be convincing.

16 comments:

Christian M. Howell said...

Not afraid to die on a treadmill. Not afraid to be laughed at. Not afraid to be first. Not afraid to exceed society''s expectations. Not afraid to speak an unpopular truth. Not afraid to have faith in things for which I have little or no logical proof. You gotta learn to trust your hunches. And what mine tell me is that most of the voices saying "stop!" are lying to us, when going forward represents growth and strength. But damn, those voices can be convincing.


Pretty much sums up my life view. I move and shake all day. My life is no fun if I agree with things as those things are why our economy is in the toilet and why there is very little creative spark in this country.

Of course this is my opinion and I could be wrong.

But the fact that reports say that America is on the verge of being a 3rd world country, I'm probably correct.

cavyherd said...

Not afraid to think a new thought...

I get a lot of "you want to do what!?" and then twenty years later, everybody's doing it...

Marty S said...

Steve: You said in your post "If I die, let me die living my life on my terms." Do you really believe this. I had a friend who was 5'10" and over 400 lbs. When someone would say to him you need to lose some of that weight or your going to die early, he would respond "I may die early, but I'll die happy." Do you accept this as an equally valid path to living life on ones own terms.

P.S. He died happy at age 48. He was also a world class bridge player.

Scott Carpenter said...

I started running last year during the process of losing 50 pounds. (I'm 5'8" and went from 210 to 160.) I had never been into running before, but just gradually started turning my walks with the dog into jogs. Now I'm up to about 6 miles, 3 days a week. I go for 60 minutes which gets me between 6 and 6.5 miles. I've started doing the elliptical on other days, going for 3 days a week and 60 minutes also.

I still encounter that resistance and desire to stop short, but work through it and feel so great after my hour of exercise. It's such a powerful feeling to work through the resistance.

I'd like to take that same drive and motivation and apply it to my working life, but so far the goal eludes me. Can't figure out what I want to do. But your writing on this blog is an inspiration, Steve. Maybe I'll find my way yet...

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Reading this and listening to Will Smith, I was going into "I don't care enough, I don't work enough, I scare too easily, I'm a total piece of shit", and it got clearer that self-hatred is a thing I do rather than something that happens to me. Finding this out is not a pleasure in the short run, but I'm expecting it to pay off.

As for Will Smith, I wonder how he's actually handling the idea that 2 + 2 doesn't have to equal 4. And that the alchemists turned lead into gold. I *think* he's taking the latter symbolically, but I'm not as sure about the arithmetic. On the other hand, I assume he isn't telling his accountant what the numbers ought to add up to.

On the one hand, most people drastically and unneccessarily limit their possibilities-- and on the other, the real world really imposes *some* limitations. Will Smith is a movie star-- he isn't levitating.

Scott Masterton said...

Nancy -

I when you wrote about self-hatred, I noticed the same thing within myself. Good insight.

When Will talked about the (2 + 2) comment, it reminded me of something a friend of mine said. He was/is a QI Gong master, but also an MD. He said that you can believe the Diagnosis (you have cancer, diabetes, etc.), but don't allow yourself to believe the prognosis. Healing, growth and change seem to happen in the mind.

We don't have control over what happens to us, but we do have control over our response to it and what we do with it.

Peace,
Scott.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Scott, thanks. This stuff is embarrassing to write about, and it's good to hear when it's useful.

Sometimes a diagnosis is wrong, too. I remember Steve's piece about refusing to believe that he was less intelligent than white people, even though a lot in his environment was saying that he was.

I'm dubious about "you can control your reaction". Part of it is that English has "can" means both "you can do it right now" and "you can learn to it with a good bit of time and effort".

Steven Barnes said...

Marty: yes, I believe what I'm saying. On the other hand, I believe that it is possible for people to deceive themselves, put a wall around their loneliness and self-hatred, and still talk the talk. How do I judge? You know he answer: I look at the three areas. And I would conclude that your friend is lying to himself, and to you. I might be wrong, but I've found that I'm more often right than when I listen to people's stories.
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I was never worried that I might be less intelligent than white people. I knew better than that. I was, on the other hand, worried that:
1) black people in general might be less intelligent.
2) white people might be unable to empathize with me, if I really let them know how I saw the world.
3) That I might be seen as a threat (according to my mother, that was a real risk.)

Steven Barnes said...

Christian: I think there is vast creativity in America. I know of no other country that out-performs us on that level. But we need to nurture the roots of creativity more. I worry about our education system, and the fruits of over-population.

Marty S said...

Steve: The three areas you believe are most important are those most important to you. But I believe, that these are not necessarily the three most important areas to everyone and that all areas have a different degree of importance to different people. You are very into a great body, and are convinced anybody who doesn't hate themselves would work toward this. Well what about a great mind. What if I proposed that everybody could have great mind and excel intellectually and those that don't do it hate themselves. The individual I mentioned in the above post was chosen by the American bridge league to represent us in the world championships. The equivalent in the mental sport of bridge of an athlete being selected to the Olympic team. He was co founder of Programing Methods Inc. A successful software consulting firm and when he died he left his wife financially well off enough to never have to work if she didn't want to. Why would you conclude that such a person necessarily hated themselves because the state of their body was viewed by others as undesirable.

Scott Masterton said...

Hi Nancy -

No, I don't think we can control our reactions...to me a reaction is knee jerk. Either it is hardwired into us like when we touch a hot stove, or it is conditioned into us by repetition like stepping on a brake when a child runs in the road. In my view a response is different than a reaction. I see a response as something that comes from our higher selves; it involves that observer portion of the mind/spirit that is unfazed by conditioning or reflex. For example, I'm driving through a residential area and a ball bounces out in front of me. I react by slamming on the brakes although there was no threat to a living creature. However, I can then respond by heightening my awareness in residential neighborhoods and also slowing down. OR I can stay in reactive mode and scream at the child for not being careful; I can get angry because I was frightened and am now later for my meeting because of the stupid actions of another. One response helps me grow more aware and will help to avoid the situation in the future, the other is not helpful to me at all.

That is probably an overly simplistic analogy, but I do think that we choose every moment what to do with what happens. Can't choose the emotional response, but I can choose to frame it so that it helps me to grow rather than pushing me deeper into unconsciousness.

Peace,
Scott.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Steve, I'm sorry about misrepresenting what you said.

Scott, I believe that managing our responses is also something which frequently needs to be learned. It's a messy subject because as far as I can tell from my own experience, in a sense I have free will, but getting reliable access to it is a learned skill.

Christian M. Howell said...

Christian: I think there is vast creativity in America. I know of no other country that out-performs us on that level. But we need to nurture the roots of creativity more. I worry about our education system, and the fruits of over-population.

Sure if you're talkign about entertainment or sports. I'm talking about math and science. Engineering and chemistry. There are small groups of "scientists" within the macrocosm, but for the most part reports are that we don't have near the amount of science grads as we need.
As more things become computerized specialized labor is needed.
They are mainly in India not the US. Microsoft, for whom I worked, has a major chunk of Indian workers.

If America was really keeping up with technology, the quality of the work would outshine the increase salary demands and there would be less need for outsourcing.

Christian M. Howell said...

From Marty,
You are very into a great body, and are convinced anybody who doesn't hate themselves would work toward this. Well what about a great mind. What if I proposed that everybody could have great mind and excel intellectually and those that don't do it hate themselves. The individual I mentioned in the above post was chosen by the American bridge league to represent us in the world championships.

It is a real struggle to do both. But it is possible to get in good shape and then concentrate on intellectuality.
I can admit that I got out of shape because I was into technology and sat around reading and writing.

Marty S said...

Christian: I agree with you. When it comes to science and technology, I think this country is in big trouble. I understand universities are having trouble finding enough physics students to justify having a physics department.
On the other subject at 63 when I look back at my life I have no regrets that I didn't put more effort into maintaining my body in better shape, but I do have some regrets that I settled for less than I might have been in the intellectual arena.

Meg said...

"If America was really keeping up with technology, the quality of the work would outshine the increase salary demands and there would be less need for outsourcing."

I'm afraid that's a bit backward. The "need" for outsourcing is the "need" for corporations to get the same work from much cheaper labor. American tech workers cannot afford to pay back student loans and live, working at tech jobs for burger-flipping wages, but those same wages are a living in some other countries.

Outsourcing is about maximizing profits via NAFTA. That said, I do agree that there has been a seismic shift away from intelligence in the USA, in recent decades. Anyone who grew up in the '70's and '80's remembers when being smart was a good thing, even if nerds were always picked on, but somehow, more recently, Hollywood and popular consensus seem to have glamorized stupidity and thuggishness, conjoined with overdone base sexuality, as the ideal. In other words, lately everything cheap and sleazy has been all the rage.

Here's hoping the Large Hadron Collider Project will surpass all our dreams, and launch forth a new era of scientific enthusiasm and hope.