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Who You Do Not Want To Be

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Are you happy with your life?

At 13, I thought I was. Then Chubby proved me wrong. Chubby was my dad. Plump as a kid, his childhood nickname stuck.

I remember the day vividly. We sat across from each other in a dark red, shiny booth next to the window. Chubby and I were at Perkins Pancake House in Cincinnati, where I grew up. It was snowing outside.

I ordered my usual. Two eggs. Extra crispy bacon. A BIG stack of pancakes. We chatted about school, friends and football.

Then Chubby discreetly turned his head, surveying the crowd. Looking back at me, he leaned across the table and whispered, “Greg, do you think about who you DO NOT want to be?”

Curious question I thought. “What do you mean?” I asked.

Chubby continued. “Do you ever think about who you DO NOT want to be like when you grow up?”

It didn’t take long for me to reply. I named names, lots of them.  With each name Chubby asked why.

Then he would say something like, “How do you think they ended up that way?” I gave my opinion. Chubby gave his.

Lack of effort? Wimpy goals? No self-discipline? Fear of failure?

Our conversation went on for an hour. It was a bible of how to go wrong in life. At least that’s how I saw it until Chubby gave me a more insightful perspective.

Meandering through life

Chubby said he didn’t think most people do anything “wrong.” They just meander along with a short-term view, striving to make each day pleasant rather than leveraging each day to make their life impactful.

It’s the triumph of short-term pleasure over long-term achievement.

We had previously talked about the importance of honesty, reputation, good grades, and such. Things everyone needs to be successful.  

But Chubby and I had never discussed meandering through life, and how quickly we can look back disappointed with ours. It was scary.

Chubby then asked me a piercing question. “Greg,” he said, “are you happy with what you’ve achieved so far?”

The answer was clearly no. I envied classmates with better grades, those who played better ball, or headed up a club. I could have done what they did. I just hadn’t. I realized I was meandering.  

I told Chubby I was satisfied. I lied. I didn’t have the courage to tell him the truth.

Many times I didn’t realize the importance of Chubby’s lessons. This time I did. I had never thought about how easy it would be to meander through life, and end up being a me I did not want to be.

Chubby drove me home that cold, snowy morning. I remember sitting in the passenger seat thinking, “It starts today. No more meandering!”

I’m proud that my sons aren’t meanderers. I listened to Chubby and they listened to me. Maybe your kids/grandkids should think about how easy it is to let life slip away. Thanks to Chubby, I did.  

“People focus on role models; it is more effective to find anti-models — people you don’t want to resemble when you grow up.”–Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “The Black Swan”

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