The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Two Tortoises At Wimbledon

“John Isner of the United States outlasted Nicolas Mahut of France, 70-68, in the fifth set of their epic three-day first-round match at Wimbledon on Thursday. In an astonishing display of endurance, the players fought for 11 hours and 5 minutes, breaking all records for length of match, games played, and aces served…”

All around the world, eyes were on France, and the utterly remarkable battle between two titans of the court, resulting in the longest, most grueling tennis match in history. As recently discussed, sport has been considered one of the deepest, truest metaphors for life itself. For thousands of years it has been used to teach young men and women the lessons that will carry them into full adulthood.

One is endurance. Remember “The tortoise and the hare”? In this ancient tale, the fast-sprinting rabbit is outmatched by a turtle who simply kept going…and going…and going. In my own life, my original goal was to become a world-class writer. One of my spiritual mentors told me that if I would not achieve this goal UNTIL I WAS IN MY FIFTIES! Here I was, about 22 years old, being told by someone I trusted deeply that I would have to postpone my satisfaction for THIRTY YEARS? Good grief. I cried. I raged. It wasn’t fair. It couldn’t be true.

And yet…what if it was? What was I being asked to do? To work hard, and incredibly long. To learn, and grow, and give, and be prepared to outlast my competition. How many people have what it takes to postpone their ultimate pleasure that long? Almost no one. And I knew in that moment I had been given a secret to life.
1) I clarified my goal so that THE PROCESS OF ACHIEVEMENT was in and of itself a glorious victory. In other words, if if was going to be a long trip, I was going to have fun along the way.
2) I gave myself intermediate goals, so that I could have yearly, and monthly celebrations.
3) I made my peace with the fact that I might not live long enough to achieve the ultimate goal…and that freed me to enjoy every day, every moment.
4) I resolved to outlearn, outlast, outwork, and outlive any potential competitors…in fact, to even forget that I had competitors, and concentrate on the glorious joy of actually being a writer.


Well…I’ve been published in fifteen languages, worked in books, film, television, stage, magazines…lectured and worked around the world, made millions of dollars, and every day I get emails and calls from people who say I’ve changed their lives. I am now 58 years old. Did I reach my goal in my 50’s? I don’t really know, darn it. I was so fixed on the daily process of living that the RESULTS of the work were less important than the process. In other words, my teacher had given me a great gift…the gift of patience. The gift of a life spent pursuing excellence rather than external reward. And because of that, I got every reward I ever wanted…beginning instantly. Because I was willing to wait, I didn’t have to wait. Life is filled with these paradoxes.

Life is a miracle.

Be the Hero In the Adventure of your Lifetime!


P.S.: Here's great FREE interview I did with Andy Duncan of Enjoy!

1 comment:

Pagan Topologist said...

This is neat, Steve! I have just read it after returning from seeing Karate Kid and Iron Man 2. I was feeling the life challenges of both of these protagonists, as well as yours, as I read your post here. I am not sure whether my own life's story arc is similar or not, but patience is certainly one of its pillars.