‘The Uncommon Man’

“Guest post”

In my opinion, we are in danger of developing a cult of the Common Man, which means a cult of mediocrity. But there is at least one hopeful sign: I have never been able to find out just who this Common Man is. In fact, most Americans — especially women — will get mad and fight if you try calling them common.

This is hopeful because it shows that most people are holding fast to an essential fact in American life. We believe in equal opportunity for all, but we know that this includes the opportunity to rise to leadership. In other words — to be uncommon!

Let us remember that the great human advances have not been brought about by mediocre men and women. They were brought about by distinctly uncommon people with vital sparks of leadership. Many great leaders were of humble origin, but that alone was not their greatness.

It is a curious fact that when you get sick, you want an uncommon doctor; if your car breaks down, you want an uncommonly good mechanic; when we get into war, we want dreadfully and uncommon admiral and an uncommon general.

I have never met a father and mother who did not want their children to grow up to be uncommon men and women. May it always be so. For the future of America rests not in mediocrity, but in the constant renewal of leadership in every phase of our national life.

Herbert Hoover, 1949

The day after Thanksgiving

On the day after Thanksgiving, I am still grateful for being able to share my life with a woman who will cook a huge turkey dinner with all the trimmings and, unable to serve everyone together due to circumstances, packs the food into containers and drives an hour to deliver the meals.

Of course, I am grateful to be able to share my life with the two slightly daft animals in this photo, who provide daily delight and occasional frustration. (The patio door in the background is the portal for comings and goings most engaged of all in the house.)

In this age of viral paranoia, I am grateful for my health that has given me nearly 68 years of life despite my constant neglect (Yes, doc, I know I need to exercise more …) and for family despite the distance between us.

I am very thankful that our refrigerator has the inevitable leftovers from the above-mentioned meal, and I probably will take a peek inside right after posting this post.

On the day after Thanksgiving, in short, I am mindful of all the reasons why every day — not one day a year — is an opportunity to reflect on all we have to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving: Building a new marina

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –

This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

— Emily Dickinson

I spent Wednesday building this new marina for my fleet of frigates; today I am thankful for all the journeys I’ve taken in them.

Great artists steal, but it’s not theft

There’s something new under the sun … every day.

Each and every one of us is a creator. It’s in our nature.

When we create something, whether it’s a painting or a poem or a store display or a legal brief, we give something of ourselves that did not exist before we gave it.

Picasso or Faulkner — or neither or both — reportedly said, “Bad artists copy. Great artists steal.” But it’s not theft.

They did not “steal” from other creators in the sense that they took others’ property away, but they did take inspiration from others’ contributions and added their own seasoning.

Thousands of authors have written time travel stories, for example. They aren’t stealing from the earlier time travel storytellers; they are adding their vision to the concept and building something altogether new.

I daresay millions of authors have written stories about couples getting together and living happily ever after, or not.

Every day each of us adds to the sum of human endeavor, an ever-growing entity that is always bigger than it was yesterday.

What if you can do it?

What if you CAN do it?

Do you see how that changes everything?

“One of the great discoveries a man makes, one of the great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.”

I wish I’d said that, but Henry Ford beat me to it, a long time ago, so long ago I hadn’t been born yet, and you know how long THAT is.

Ford is also the guy who said, “Whether you think you can do it, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Mind set is everything.

OK, it’s a big part of everything. You can believe you can do something and still not do it, out of fear or neglect or whatever. I hate to admit how many times I did that, or rather didn’t.

I have a Vince Lombardi quote at eye level at my computer: “When you have a God-given talent, you must use it all the time.”

It’s sort of an obligation (hence “must”). Even back in Biblical times they would say, “To whom much is given, much will be required.”

Set your mind. Believe you can do it. Go and do it. It’s a simple formula. Might take a minute or it might take years, but you can do it.

Why are you still waiting? Go.