In my world, history is a source of Tailwinds. When you think about it, humans have done some amazing things, under difficult and sometimes awful conditions.
Things that run through my mind:
Developing a new science or technology with only a vision and rudimentary tools.
Standing up to an establishment in the face of personal harm for the betterment of others.
Men marching hundreds of miles, in not so comfortable shoes or clothes designed to breathe existing on nutrition that makes Spam look like a delicacy, to stand in a line in an open field to fight a battle they feel is just.
Those who somehow managed to hold onto hope when it seemed there was 0% chance of a better life while interned in a concentration camp or life of slavery.
These examples of courage, intelligence and conviction were
accomplished by people with DNA very similar to ours. Because of their efforts, we now we now have a better world and broader minds. With history and a little empathy as a reference point, sometimes headwinds are put into perspective and become a little more manageable.
I said these tailwinds were not in any particular order and technically they won’t be. But for the sake of foundation, I’m going to start at the beginning. Today, I am going to acknowledge Genetics as my Tailwind.
Despite a lack of hand-eye coordination and a limited attention span, I’d say I come from pretty good stock. Both of my parents and my grandparents on my mom’s side were fully functional and cognitive well into their eighties. My dad was physically active taking daily walks, riding his bike, hiking and camping up until he had the stroke. I’m the youngest of five siblings and we’ve all been fortunate to be healthy thus far. Almost half a century into my time here, I can still run around a soccer field with some measure of aptitude, able to muscle through Julia’s 8th-grade math, keep up with Aidan’s quick wit, and my Dr. is still surprised to see me when I am in his office. These are good things.
It stems from a podcast I listened to earlier this week on Freakonomics Radio. This episode titled “Why Is My Life So Hard?” was centered on a paper the guests published called “The Headwinds/Tailwinds Asymmetry: An Availability Bias In Assessments Of Barriers And Blessings.” In the paper, they study why everyone tends to believe their road is more difficult than others. This is something I’ve noticed and pondered before. Obviously, these dudes have wondered the same thing and figured out a way to get paid for an answer. Color me jealous.
We all do it in one way or another. It’s natural. Some common examples were “Why you think your parents were tougher on you than your siblings,” “Why both sides of the political aisle are convinced the deck is stacked against them,” “Why our profession is more demanding than others” etc. The tendency is to notice the obstacles (headwinds) without paying attention to strengths or positives (tailwinds). Even if we do notice the tailwind, appreciation is fleeting. One analogy they mentioned that resonated was a running with a strong wind in your face. When heading into the wind, it’s the bane of your existence. After finally turning around, and the wind is at your back, the appreciation lasts for only a moment until thought turns to the next hill that’s in your way.
Eventually, they got to the point which I will now as well. The people they find are the most balanced and successful are those that continually show gratitude to the tailwinds. Showing gratitude, more specifically, documenting the good fortune that has helped you along the way, creates a symmetrical counterbalance and highlights strengths that may be underappreciated. The context can be anything, but it needs to be specific. It can’t be just “I appreciate my health.” This claim might be true but what specifically do you appreciate about it? Same thing goes for people. You can’t just appreciate a person, what is it about them or what did they do that you appreciate? If you want to double down, they suggest letting the person know. Besides emotional vulnerability, what’s the harm in letting someone know they made a positive impact? For some reason, we rarely do this enough.
Let’s be honest; I have it harder than any of you. I’m kidding of course. At my core, I am well aware that I am extremely fortunate in more ways than I can count. That being said, I am not above contradicting myself and admitting that, I sometimes lose sight of my tailwinds and it seems like I’m swimming uphill. If you are with me, let me hear you say, “Go ahead with your hypocritical self Jack!!!”
Taking all this into consideration, I thought I’d conduct a little experiment. I am taking on a challenge with a friend of mine to acknowledge one tailwind every day for 30 days. To make it stick, we decided it needs to be in a public forum. I will probably use this blog. I’ve been told I can be a bit long winded with the words. This will be great practice in constructing short, concise, deeply profound, impactful, one thought posts. We’ll see how that works….
To be clear; what this is not:
With the exception of my girls dominating the CYO U-14 Soccer season, 2016 was a very difficult year for several reasons. This 30-day effort is not a cry for help or an effort to recover from a tumultuous downslide. I’m fine. I just had an idea and thought I’d see where it goes.
This exercise is not comfortable. It probably should be, but for some reason, it’s not. Which seems all the more reason to take on the challenge.
This gratitude is not to be confused with satisfaction. Appreciating something doesn’t mean I’m going to settle for mediocrity when I know it can be better.
This is not a comprehensive list, nor is it in order. I don’t have it written as of yet; I intend to go with what presents itself along the way.
This is by no means a solitary effort. If you would like to join me and potentially start my first viral movement, please feel free.
Who knows; maybe if we use social media for some positive energy, instead of venting about political headwinds, or telling me “You’re not going to believe what happens next in this video,” …… the world might just be a better place.
I’d be interested to know; what are your tailwinds and do you appreciate them?
This past weekend I was skiing with my daughter Julia, a couple of her friends and their families. We don’t ski very often, maybe once a year. The girls are pretty athletic, and their progress in just this short two-day trip was pretty amazing. By mid-day on day #2 they were feeling comfortable on their skis, maybe even a little cocky, and were ready for a bit more challenge. It was time for the “Black Diamond.”
Anticipation had been building for weeks. The “Black Diamond” slopes were the toughest our Western Mayland mountain had to offer. Once the gauntlet had been thrown, and the girls called each other’s bluff, it was “go time.” We headed to the fiercely named “Odin’s Chute.” I skied to the crest of the “cliff” and watched as the girls cautiously approached. Even through their tinted goggles, I could see their eyes increase in size as they began to realize they could see the bottom but could not see the hill itself.
Being teenage girls and great friends they are usually full of chatter. At this time, however, there was silence. By now they had descended a preliminary hill and knew there was no going back. As a Coach and a Dad, this is the type of teachable moment you dream of….. The expressions on their faces said,
“I will listen to anything you have to say if it keeps me alive.”
There were no arguments, no rebuttals, just a united focus that non-verbally said… “yes, I’m listening.”
The other parents and I refilled the girls rapidly depleting reserves of confidence and assured them that they were completely capable of accomplishing what they set out to do. They just needed to take this on like they would any seemingly insurmountable task. In bite sized pieces. It was one turn at a time and to cut it into small “chunks.” By this I mean, ski across the side of the mountain, turn and ski back. With each turn, they would descend a little more. Don’t worry about the next turn, only what’s in front of you. One turn at a time. That’s exactly what they did. They took on the mountain, cut it into bite size “chunks”, accomplished their goal and claimed a well-deserved victory.
The girls know me well enough to realize I will always find a deeper meaning, and this was no exception. Throughout life, we are continually faced with projects, tasks, long-range goals, which make us shake in our boots. When we break them down and take them one turn at a time, eventually we get where we want to go. Sure we are scared. Sure we question if what we are about to do is a wise decision. We probably won’t even accomplish the goal our first attempt. But when we earn the right to pose for the picture, it’s worth a thousand words.