Monday, July 7, 2008

Be the Driver of Your Life

I was sitting in class tonight. I am one of two adult, non-traditional students in a class of 24 students. We two older students are generally the only ones who participate in the question/answer model of your average modern classroom. The other students are either text-messaging their friends or staring straight ahead. The professor is clearly frustrated at this lack of responsiveness, but seems a little used to it.

I restrain myself from standing up and saying, "YOU ARE THE DRIVER OF this vehicle called YOUR LIFE."

This is perhaps one of the blessings of getting older, not being afraid to actually answer a professor's question, even if you answer wrong -- and not caring what those around you think if you do get the answer wrong.

That I believe myself the driver of my life goes further than the classroom. Everything in life, even the sweetest friendships, take effort and energy, and the rewards generally equal the effort.

There are many things that are beyond my control; the weather, the clock, traffic, the economy, the good or bad opinion of others (at least this last one I have a small influence over). I realize that bad things sometimes unaccountably happen to good people, but I am not a fatalist. I think it was Emily Dickenson (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) who said, "If you seek beauty, you will find it." I might append her quote with, "And if you seek nothing, you will find it."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pride and Prejudice, Stubborness and Impatience

There is a scene in Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice in which Elizabeth Bennet is playing the piano forté at the great house of Lady Catherine De Bourgh. Elizabeth’s playing is good, but not dazzling. Mr. Darcy is watching her play, and they tease each other for their various faults. Elizabeth accuses Darcy of not dancing enough at a recent ball, to which he replies that he is, “ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers.”

Elizabeth responds: “My fingers do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have only supposed it to be my own fault—because I would not take the trouble of practicing.”

This exchange in the story is a pivotal moment, and is central to the entire theme of the book. It has always held me in rapture because Austin has not only created an instant where two characters, seemingly in jest, connect on a profound level, but it gets at something universally human.

For my own part, I try my hand at a great many things. I fail at nearly as many, but I persist in trying. It’s true that I view recipes as mere suggestions. Ask me to assemble something and I’ll start by throwing away the instructions. I dive in to things where others hesitate and measure and second guess themselves. Don’t confuse my behavior with confidence; it’s more a mixture of stubbornness and impatience.

I once heard a saying, where your energy goes, success will follow. I’ve learned that if someone struggles in learning something new, it isn't necessarily some lack of talent, but because he truly doesn’t wish to learn it.

And so it is with Accounting. After two hours of homework this morning, with historic and artistic thoughts of Luca Pacioli, I’m beginning to understand it. Look at me doing spreadsheets.

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