Wednesday, January 31, 2018

“As the caterpillar becomes the butterfly, so also the meaningless becomes meaningful to those who strive with persistence and trust with simplicity.” – Arnold Kunst

From “The Human Condition: A User’s Manual,” by Arnold Kunst
31 January
I remember like it was yesterday working for a painting contractor when I was in college who submitted a bid for painting the exterior of an entire condomenium complex. The complex was called Whispering Pines and they were over the moon when they found out they had won this job. The company was led by three brothers who had, between them, no less than 15 kids - lots of mouths to feed. Bob - he was the one who had taken and passed the contractor's exam and so, nominally, was the boss - told me that they liked to nail down a super- big contract every year if they could, one that would stretch out for six months like this one, and then they could build the rest of the year around that one contract.
There was one little problem, though, one that should rightly give anyone cause for concern: they learned eventually thst their winning bid was lower - considerably lower- than the next lowest bid. In fact, $40,000 lower. When they examined their bid they found the problem: John, the estimator, somehow had forgotten to include a figure for the windows. The good news was, they had the gigantic job they were going to build an entire year around, just like they wanted. The bad news was, they went into this six-month commitment at a considerable disadvantage: they were starting out in a $40,000 hole, and nothing they could possibly do would ever dig themselves out of it.
The one who really stood out in this whole story was Bud, the third brother - the best painter I ever met in all those high school and college summers - who was slated to be the job foreman. He had to get up every day, drag himself off to a job he KNEW was losing $40,000, and that, no matter what he did - and he was a wizard not only with a spray gun but also as a leader of men - the thing was a dog. I, like all the other 16 guys on that crew, was happy enough to be off to a job that would last my entire summer and leave my bank account sufficiently swollen that I'd be able to limp my way through to the following summer when these three brothers would work their magic once again.
For me Whispering Pines was nothing more than a cash cow. It was something very different for Bud, the one who - largely because of how he carried himself during those six gruelling months - became my lifetime hero that summer. He taught me a valuable lesson: maturity isn't always pretty, and it largely happens out of sight.

“We must be lovers, and at once the impossible becomes possible.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

From “The Human Condition: A User’s Manual,” by Arnold Kunst
30 January
How I learned the difference between “Impossible!” and “I’m Possible!” I always liked to cycle. In fact, back in the day when I had a j-o-b I had chosen both a car and a car-pool partner for just that purpose. My station wagon was merely a glorified bike rack. And I found myself an accommodating car-pool partner who got one of my car’s spare keys. We’d meet 15 or 20 miles from work and go in together in one car. Either I would take the bike out when we got to work if we went in my car, or I would leave the bike at work the previous day if we went in his car. Anyway, I’d typically get in two, maybe even three, days of cycling this way. In November of 2002 I happened to mention my interest in cycling to  another co-worker, and she asked if I had ever considered doing the AIDS ride: raise $2,500 for the privilege of cycling from SF to LA, 585 miles over 7 days in early June. Well, the more she and I talked about it the more excited I became. The physical challenge, meeting interesting, can-do people – she even said the food was to die for!
But I had two problems: I was going to be 61 in June when the event was scheduled, and I was a good 50 pounds overweight. The kicker was, the more I thought and talked about it, the more excited I became.
Then one day in early December while cycling from work to my car, as a complete fluke I met another cyclist. His bike looked really impressive. I said to him, “that’s a beautiful bike you’ve got there; you must have paid a fortune for it!” He said, “I don’t know how much it cost; I got it from the manufacturer for nothing.” He then went on to explain that he was a professional cyclist, so I asked him about my excitement/problem. He said, “How many miles do you do in a week and how fast do you do them?” I said, “I do 19.5 miles twice a week, and with a tail wind I can do it in under an hour.”
Without batting an eye, he said, “you can do it. You’ve got a good six months to train, and with the weather getting better and the days getting longer you could grow your weekly mile count to over 150 in the weeks just before the big event.” “How will I know I’m ready?” I asked. “When you can do 65 miles in a day, then get up the next day and do 65 miles, then get up the next day, you’re ready. If you can’t get up on that third day, you’re not ready.” The whole conversation only lasted about 8 minutes, then we parted company, and I never saw him again. But those 8 minutes changed everything. I learned that all I had to do was make the peddles go around a lot of times.
There’s one downside to this: I can’t ever look at a really hard thing, an impossible thing even, and say, “I couldn’t ever do that!”
“Impossible!” became “I’mPossible!”

“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”

From “Lincoln 365,” by Arnold Kunst
January 31
Lincoln was roundly criticized for an abysmal lack of leadership because he appeared to dither. The fact was he refused to move until he had gathered and evaluated all the relevant facts. His critics, by contrast, always had all the relevant facts; they always knew what to do and how to do it, and never seemed burdened with that pesky need to gather and sift.

'Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.'
- John F. Kennedy

“Obstacles are the raw materials of great accomplishment.” – Tommy Newberry

From “The Human Condition: A User’s Manual,” by Arnold Kunst
29 January
Achievement never happens in a comfort zone.

“Lord, give me steadfastness without dogmatism, love without weakness.” - Anonymous

From “Lincoln 365,” by Arnold Kunst
January 30
'And upon this act [The Emancipation Proclamation] sincerely believed to be an act of justice warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.'
- Abraham Lincoln

'Doubt not, oh poet, but persist. Say, “It is in me, and shall out!”’
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, January 29, 2018

“Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity – and I’m not sure about the universe.” – Albert Einstein

From “Lincoln 365,” by Arnold Kunst
January 29
Lincoln once told the story of the sick man in Illinois ‘who was told he probably hadn’t many days longer to live, and he ought to make his peace with any enemies he might have. He said the man he hated worst of all was a fellow named Brown in the next village. So Brown was sent for, and when he came the sick man began to say, in a voice as meek as Moses’s, that he wanted to die at peace with all his fellow creatures, and he hoped he and Brown could now shake hands and bury all their enmity. The scene was becoming altogether too pathetic for Brown who had to get out his handkerchief and wipe the gathering tears from his eyes. After a parting that would have softened the heart of a grindstone, Brown had about reached the room door when the sick man rose up on his elbow and called out to him: “But see here, Brown, if I should happen to get well, mind, the old grudge stands.”’

‘Don't make me come down there!’
- God