Sunday, December 1, 2019

Did You Have a Good Turkey Day?

Actually the Thanksgiving holiday that just passed is more than a day of over indulging with family and friends. For some, it may be hard to believe, but it is even more than football. It's a time to step back from striving for more and more - what some see as the American dream. To be happy we need step away from the thinking of Edward G Robinson in Key Largo. When Humphrey Bogart asked the gangster what he was after, he couldn't say, then he said “More!”

Don't take this as a criticism of working to make a better life for ourselves and our families. But think about it this way: if what you have doesn't make you happy, getting a nicer house or faster car won't do it either. If the thought goes through your mind that you will be happy when you get this thing or something else happens, you joy will be quickly passing and ongoing happiness will be forever out of your reach.

You may be thinking that I don't know your situation and your reasons for being unthankful this time of year. Obviously I don't. Those are just details. Look at one of the most unhappy people in our country, Colin Kaepernick. He spent his holiday at an “unthankfulness” gathering railing against the country that gave him opportunities few will ever see. Was he appreciative of what his talents on the football field gave him? It's hard to believe he did the way he disrespected the game, his teammates and our country.

I won't get into a discussion of the validity of his cause, but in the way he let it define his life and his actions. For those of us in the USA, a spirit of unthankfulness causes us to overlook the freedoms we have and the prosperity these freedoms have given us. Sure not everything is right, but then, when and where has it ever been otherwise?

I don't often often go out to movies – there are far too many available at home and I don't have to wait in line to spend nine dollars for a bucket of popcorn. However in the past few days I broke my usual habits and saw a couple of movies that emphasized how powerful the American experiment in individual freedom impacts the people privileged to experience it.

The first film, Midway, showed what free men will do to protect their country and families. For the cynics who say there is little to be thankful for, we really need to appreciate the cost to the airmen and their families who sacrificed during this battle that was the first major American victory in the Pacific and turned the tide against the Japanese Imperial Navy. They gave their lives so we and their loved ones could live in freedom.

The second film showed what free men and do with the opportunities we have before us. Ford vs Ferrari showed how a major corporation needed to come to individual entrepreneurs to help them defeat entrenched auto racing champions. Of course, the bureaucratic interference made the job more difficult, but it was still the efforts of free individuals like Carroll Shelby and Ken Myles that got the job done.

But, you say you haven't been given the resources that Shelby had or you haven't faced an enemy as big as the Navy flyers did. So what? Neither have I. Most people haven't. Perhaps that, in itself, is something to the thankful for.

So what does this mean for us? It's easy to be bummed out because of things or resources we don't have. We can look around in the real estate business and see other investors who have more money available to them or have access to better deals. Often we don't see what they had to go through to get to their current situation. Some even had less the we do when they started.

One thing we all have is opportunity. Some will say they don't have the same opportunities. As Werner Erhard would tell you “So what?” (No, I am not promoting EST, just using an illustration.) Each of us has opportunities unique to our situation – sometimes we just have to look a little harder to find them. When we do, this is something to be thankful for. It is these opportunities that make or break us. The opportunities we don't have don't matter and there is no point in dwelling on them.

As an illustration, let me tell you about a trip I made with my grandson to the Tampa New Car and Truck Show. Pretty much, unless you have Jay Leno's garage, there was something there to make you unhappy and discontent with the vehicle you are driving, even if you just got it. Perhaps especially if you just got it. You would see something better you could have gotten. You just may not appreciate the car or truck you drive and are not quite as thankful for having it. You may say: why should I be thankful for it. I worked for it . I earned it. Hey, you had the ability to work, some people don't.

There were all kinds of things that caught my eye, the mid-engine Corvette, the Cobra Mustang, the supercharged hemi Challenger, especially the '68 454 Chevelle convertible with cowl induction. Younger people won't understand the last one, millennials might not even get the first three. Did the existance of these vehicles diminish the utility and benefit of the car I drove to the show? No, but I could have let them destroy my appreciation for it and desire to take care of it since it wasn't a great as the ones I saw.

The point of all this is that you cannot drive vehicles you don't have and you can't take advantage of opportunities you don't have. BUT... you can take advantage off opportunities you do have... and because of this consider them as the path to get you where you want to be. Because of this we can appreciate whatever is before us – and we can step forward into them. And... be thankful for them.

Now about the people in our lives. They have helped make us what we are, especially our families. If they have been difficult, they have developed patience and strength in us – something to be thankful for. If we have learned something from them – that, too, is something to be thankful for.

Even if that doesn't move you to a spirit of thankfulness. Take a deep breath. You are alive. You can think. You can dream. You can take steps toward your dream. As long as you live there is purpose to your life. Don't see it? Look again, harder. The funny thing about human nature we often miss some important things in life unless we are looking for them.

So start looking – IF you even want to be thankful. There are reasons for everyone to be happy even if it a chance for a better tomorrow. An attitude of gratitude will carry you much further than living in a perpetual pity party.