Enlightened Conflict

horse racing & life

June 7th, 2014

horses Secretariat turcotte

“Place yourself to be out of trouble, that way you’ll be able to make your move. That’s the main thing — keep the horse out of trouble, and you should have no trouble.” Ron Turcotte <last triple crown jockey>






Today we will find out if we will have the first Triple Crown winner <win the Kentucky Derby, the Pimlico Preakness in Maryland and the New York Belmont Stakes in horse racing> in over 40 years.



But it is the quote that made me think about horse racing and Life.



Keep the horse out of trouble and you should have no trouble.



Life is kind of like that.


Navigating life is as often about keeping out of the way of trouble as it is positioning yourself to win.

Actually … they are almost two sides of the same coin.


And it sounds simple.


But keeping out of the way of trouble is difficult.

For several reasons.

One is that there are a shitload of moving parts <people and things> happening in Life all around you.

Second is that every time you may zig to get around perceived trouble … trouble zags and hits you smack into the face.


Think about this.

The winner of the last Triple Crown raced maybe 20000 races … and had 17000 losses <or not wins>.

Trouble arose 17000 times or so.

<but he won 3000 times>


horse zenThe winner of the last triple crown in over 35 years … and the rider of the only horse , the only non-human, selected by Sports Illustrated as one of the 50 greatest athletes of the 20th Century … now sits in a wheelchair because of a horse racing ‘trouble’ incident.

<but he won 3000 times including a triple crown>.



His thoughts on all his?


“I am just an ordinary man who was lucky enough to accomplish something.”

The guy won 3000 races.


He met trouble head on and did what he wanted to do.

That’s called Life.






As in winning in Life:


“A lot of things have to go in your favor. You have to have a good support group. You have to have talent. You have to have trust that’s earned through adversity, going through good times and bad times, but you also have to have some good bounces and things have to go your way.”



The good bounces thing is what struck me.

Even with 3000 wins, even after all the winning … he understood the value of luck, of chance, and of fate.

And that maybe you have to have a lot of your own share of all three.


He understood that even if you are the best of the best … and doing the best of the best … the universe will sometimes do what it does.


In other words.


Success is never guaranteed.

Even if you are good … really good.

Even if you train … really train.

And even if you try your hardest.

The universe will sometimes do what it does.





Life isn’t about regret but rather an understanding of the moments … and horse hugopportunities Life provides.



“And our team is mature enough to understand that, to have perspective and to feel fortunate for this opportunity.”



I think it’s a little crazy when people say they deserve a chance … or deserve an opportunity … or because they worked hard that opportunity was deserved in some way.


Opportunities always exist … but you are not guaranteed to get them.

If you get an opportunity feel fortunate <and do your best to not waste it>.






Or trying to insure success.

Or maybe it is the different paths to success.



“…. I just have to ride him accordingly. I don’t think anyone can tell a jockey what to do. I had a free hand when I was riding most of the time, but when they tie your hand and give you orders to be placed somewhere or do this or do that — ‘I want you to lay third,’ or ‘I want you to lay fourth’ — it might be 10 horses in the race, and nine of them have the same orders.”



Or … as he summarizes direction …



“We can’t all be in the same place, so when the gate opens, you’re on your own.”



So many times we say ‘this is the way to win’ … but you know what? … everyone is trying to win.

Oftentimes winning is about context and managing the moment.

Someone can tell you ‘this is the way to do it’ but … trust me … in Life you have to use  free hand to win the race.





Humility … or maybe it is simply acceptance of what happens.


The year was 1965, and Turcotte, then 23, was aboard a horse named Tom Rolfe, whom he had ridden to a Preakness win after a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Turcotte made his move too early in that race and ended up losing by a neck at the line to a Florida-bred horse called Hail To All.


“It was completely my fault,” Turcotte said. “I knew the horse’s fitness and all that, and I should have waited a little bit longer, and I got the horse beat. I don’t know if I was one of the best (that year), but the best can get beat the same way.”




So he admitted … yup … admitted … he was the reason it lost.


Imagine that.




This guy had integrity.



In a sport that has been in the past the target of shady betting schemes, fixed races and other illegal activities associated with organized crime, Turcotte <along with Darrel McHargue and British journeyman Michael Hole> was named as an “Untouchables” – three jockeys who would never be coerced into rigging races.

It was a moniker made all the more impressive when Mafia member-turned-state witness Anthony Ciulla testified in 1980 to the widespread criminal element in New York’s jockey colony and how Turcotte was an incorruptible in an easily corrupted game.


This unimpeachable integrity may be Turcotte’s most defining and notable distinction.horses hello




I think everything else I have written about Life and horse racing is almost irrelevant compared to that last thought.



Unimpeachable integrity.




That is Life as it should be lived.


as I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge

May 6th, 2014

audrey hepburn eyes


“Success is like reaching an important birthday and finding you’re exactly the same.”

Audrey Hepburn





Audrey Hepburn, who died at 63, would have been 85 this past Sunday if she had lived <born may 4th 1929 in Belgium>.


Most people know Hepburn for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But after her movie career she was an active ambassador for UNICEF.


Hepburn exuded elegance.

At any age – young & older.




I have no idea why I decided to sit down and write about Audrey Hepburn. I didn’t know the woman. I didn’t particularly like any of her movies. But yet … I know that every time I see a picture of her I stop … not just to look … but for some odd reason I think.


And forgive me … but whatever it is about Audrey … it is something I struggle to put a thought or finger on.

Its there … and it is always there … just on the tip of my tongue or the edge of my mind or sometimes even something that seems to slip in and out of the side of my vision.


audrey hepburn smilePart of it is … well … she seemed beautifully imperfect.

An amalgamation of imperfections and flaws wrapped up in what appeared to be a sincerely relentless strength of character.


I can honestly say she is one of the few people from the past who I think I would have liked to have met. I think I would have not only liked her … but I think I would have respected her. I think she would have lived up to the bar of expectations … the sometimes absurd level of hope & expectations we place on famous people.



“She had everything I was looking for: charm, innocence, and talent. She also was very funny. She was absolutely enchanting.”  – producer for the play GiGi



She was lovely, adorable, sweet and charming … and spoke several languages including English, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and German. And if a true test of character is what a child says about their parents … you should read or hear whatever her son says about her.




And that character of hers.


Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

My favorite story I have ever heard about Hepburn.


Apparently Truman Capote <whose writings Breakfast is based on> thought that Hepburn was ‘grossly miscast’ as Holly Golightly.

And I imagine he was correct because the Hepburn’s portrayal of Holly Golightly was adapted from the original.




“Because I can’t play a hooker” she admitted to the producer of the film.



She was stunningly attractive … in an imperfect way.

As she called it … a good mixture of defects.audrey hepburn perfect imprefcet



Hepburn’s iconic look was what she thought of as “a good mixture of defects.” She thought she had a big nose and big feet, and she was too skinny and not enough breast. She would look in the mirror and say, ‘I don’t understand why people see me as beautiful.’

Audrey Hepburn’s son Luca Dotti



I think it should remind us that imperfections well embraced exude character.


Imperfections well used exude character … and elegance <not awkwardness>.


Imperfections well accepted become perfections.


And within all of this imperfect perfectness … she also somehow exuded … well … humanness. Maybe the better word is … some sense of being relatable.

She never seemed to step down from the unattainable clouds to bless us with her presence … somehow she seemed to be already among us … beautifully unnoticed.


audrey hepburn look busMaybe she was able to do this because she didn’t live a perfect life … but never dwelled on the imperfections Life dealt her.


In one interview Hepburn spoke about growing up during World War 2:


“I have memories. More than once I was at the station seeing trainloads of Jews being transported, seeing all these faces over the top of the wagon. I remember, very sharply, one little boy standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing a coat that was much too big for him, and he stepped on to the train. I was a child observing a child.”



She also occasionally acted as a courier for the resistance delivering messages and packages.


And … during the war … Hepburn, who was a talented ballet dancer, secretly danced for groups of people to collect money for the Dutch resistance.



“The best audience I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performances.”

Audrey Hepburn


This is from a woman who at the pinnacle of her fame was applauded on the streets.

Ladies & gentlemen readers … this is called ‘perspective.’


Fame has a tendency to warp perspective.

It didn’t seem like it did for her.


She said she lived life unconditionally. And she did … and didn’t.

Her love life certainly wasn’t perfect … and her own self esteem seemed to wander into some dark places on occasion.



She worked hard to be the best she could be … but she never talked about how audrey hepburn 86hard she worked.

She just did it.


My sense is she always showed up … she always did things … always did what she thought was right … and let the chips fall as they may.




I apologize because I typically try and make some point when I share my thoughts.

But even though I am writing about things that I think should matter to us … I still haven’t figured out the elusive ‘thought’ that Audrey Hepburn seems to capture.


I admit I loved her attitude toward life:


“I decided, very early on, just to accept life unconditionally; I never expected it to do anything special for me, yet I seemed to accomplish far more than I had ever hoped. Most of the time it just happened to me without my ever seeking it.”

Audrey Hepburn



I admit I loved the blend of her style and her demeanor.


I admit I loved her beauty because she embraced a fantastic sense of audrey hepburn tomboytomboyishness lady elegance <yikes … figure out how to do that ladies>.


I admit that I loved what I perceived she had … that Audrey had something so lacking in the world today … a combination of classy accessibleness.

Or maybe she felt above us and yet among us.


I admit that whatever it was … whatever she ‘had’ … she exuded it.


I struggle to believe we ever <and on this I truly mean ever> see the likes of the tomboyishly elegantly lovely Audrey Hepburn again.


And that is surely our loss.




After her death … Gregory Peck went on camera and, very emotionally, recited her favorite poem “Unending Love” by Rabindranath Tagore.


It is a truly perfectly lovely poem for an imperfectly lovely lady.



“If my world were to cave in tomorrow, I would look back on all the pleasures, excitements and worthwhilenesses I have been lucky enough to have had. Not the sadness, not my miscarriages or my father leaving home, but the joy of everything else. It will have been enough.”

Audrey Hepburn



Gregory Peck video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DL_yVhwxCSY


The Poem:



Unending Love


I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…

In life after life, in age after age, forever.

My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,

That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,

In life after life, in age after age, forever.


Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age-old pain,

Its ancient tale of being apart or together.

As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,

Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:

You become an image of what is remembered forever.


You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.

At the heart of time, love of one for another.

We have played along side millions of lovers, shared in the same

Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell-

Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.


Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you

The love of all man’s days both past and forever:

Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.

The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours –

And the songs of every poet past and forever.audrey hepburn



Rabindranath Tagore.

back where we began

April 24th, 2014

beginning finished


“And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – t.s. eliot



“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” – T.S. Eliot



Life has a set of rules we live by.

In fact … lots of rules.

Rules on how to live life … how to think about life … how to look at life.

There are so many rules it gets confusing.


Trust me.

They are all there … unwritten … yet etched in people’s mind and heads … because we live … well … in a community that functions because there is an understanding among its members.


Some may call it civilization … or being civilized … I don’t really bucket it in do your best rulesanyway other than in other Life has its rules and requires some responsibilities.


I imagine I am suggesting that some of those rules are good.

The responsibilities ones.

I will call it kind of the responsibility compass:


Be mindful of others.

Do the best you can.

Be the best you can.

Don’t kill anyone.

Don’t purposefully do the wrong thing.

Be honest <or maybe just don’t lie about anything big>.

Do the right thing as often as you can.




Some of these rules are confuxing <or are ‘confuxed’>.confuxed


They are fucked up <or they fuck us up> and they are confusing.



Because there is a lot of vagary and non specifics. There is a lot of room to roam within these Life responsibilities … or … uhm … our responsibilities to Life.

Within all these rules and responsibilities we not only have an almost infinite boundless area in which we have freedom to roam … but we also don’t have any specific rules in how to go about living Life … or even how to live life.

We also struggle because we want to use last year’s words … while next year’s words are awaiting to be spoken <but most of us can’t identify those words>.



Oddly … all of this vagary and boundaries are both boundless and restricting.


And maybe it is because we view these unwritten rules as too boundless we tend to begin building boundaries in the sense of constricting or measuring in steps what we do … or how we should view Life.


And maybe we shouldn’t view it that way.


While there are gobs of books telling us how to think and what to do … there is no ‘one way.’ There is no secret nor is there any magic formula.


That’s why life begins and ends and has something in the middle.


Something in which the only real destination that matters … or is real … is the end.

Everything else is simply a stop sign … maybe a yield sign … not a dead end sign.


So many people set specific destinations in life.

Goals .. milestones … whatevers.


beginning lamourOnly to find it isn’t really a destination … simply a rest stop on the highway. In fact … many of those destinations, which are desired and have been well defined outlined and tasked, turn out to be places we reach and as you take a look around with a satisfied sigh of completion … well … you end up saying …  ‘shit. I’m lost.’



You get there and say to yourself … now that I have made it here … what the fuck was I thinking … I want to go farther.




“We didn’t come this far … to only come this far.”




And then you start all over again.


It is quite possible that you … well … arrive back where you started <metaphorically … not literally> … and maybe … just maybe … you will actually know it … understand it … for the first time.


I stopped telling myself that I’m lost.

I’m not.

I’m on a road with no destination, I’m just driving with hope that I’ll find a place that I like and I’ll stay there.

I’m not lost, I’m on my way.




Life is never linear.

Life is perpetual circles and cycles.

beginning energy continuous

And yet we constantly try to make it linear only to be constantly disappointed when we end up back where we began.

And disappointed when the words we vocalize end up being last year’s words.


All I imagine I tend to think about is that, in Life, there is truly only one beginning … and one end.


Everything else is somewhere in between with some wrong way signs, some yield signs and maybe some stop signs … and I imagine that means most of us feel lost on occasion.


And maybe we should simply think we are … well … on our way.

dance along death’s icy brink

March 31st, 2014


dance on the brink kids

“Cease, Man, to mourn, to weep, to wail; enjoy thy shining hour of sun; We dance along Death’s icy brink, but is the dance less full of fun?” –  Richard Francis Burton




This is about attitude.


And business.


And the occasions in your work life when you have the opportunity to dance on the icy brink of Death.



And about the fact that dancing is … well … dancing.



Unfortunately many people don’t look at it that way.


They look at where their feet are instead of what their feet are doing.

They get freaked because they are being asked to dance along Death’s icy brink.


Let’s be clear about this moment.


You may be on the icy brink of Death <in some business situation>.


The sun is out.

The spotlight is on.

In fact … these are not the dark days … the plodding grind it out days … nor the days burdened by mistakes or failure.


These are the days where as you dance on the brink it is clear and uncluttered and bright and warm and … well … this is it.


These are the moments which business people dream of.


You know what I mean … THOSE moments.


Everything clears … and is clear … and you have the opportunity to dance. dance where we evolveTo do your thing. To … well … suffice it to say … most of in business dream of these moments … and they are often few and far between.





So often.


Instead of taking the opportunity to dance.


They mourn. They weep. They wail.


They don’t see the opportunity to dance. They only see that their feet stand on the icy brink of Death. They only see uncertainty … and <possible> death if they slip.



Let me be clear.

No really good business person actually aims to dance on the icy brink of Death. But that’s not really the point.

Much of business is simply managing the moments that arise.


Some shit you can control.

Most you cannot.

And the majority of the time these moments to dance, your moment, is not created by any plan you have developed but rather in spite of your plan. No plan goes as planned. And therein lies the dances that occur on the icy brink of Death.


And I say that because a shitload of people don’t dance because they are too busy regrouping around the ‘plan’ to see what went wrong. To discuss why the dancing on the edge nohell we have this ‘opportunity’ to dance … ON THE ICY BRINK OF DEATH they moan … and gnash their teeth … and wring their hands … and seek to blame someone.

In other words … do anything but dance.



And you want to frickin’ dance.





Those who want to dance in those moments? Those are the people you are looking for in business. They do not focus on the uncertainty of dancing on an icy brink … they are only certain they know the dance.


Those who see dancing as dancing. Where they dance is almost irrelevant to them. They aren’t clueless as to the location of the dance <therefore they are careful where they put their feet> but other than that … they don’t care where the dance is … just let them dance.


Enjoy the sun … the clarity … stop the mourning and wailing … and frickin’ dance.


My point?


Pretty simple.

In business all that matters is being able to dance and enjoy it. Because if you enjoy it you will be successful.


If you focus on where you are dancing … well … I imagine in some way you are claiming dancing is best, or better, in some places rather than others.


I believe those who don’t care where they dance are the best of the best. The business people you kill for. The ones you pay a little extra for to keep around.


But that’s me.


And, in fact, I know I have seen some great dancers … mostly younger … who never get an opportunity to dance on the icy brink of Death not because opportunities don’t exist … but because senior management does <a> anything but dance when on the icy brink, <b> anything to get away from the icy brink or <c> anything to explain why the opportunity to dance was actually occurring on the icy brink <or all of these or any combination of these>.


Once again.

Good business people don’t seek dancing on the icy brink of Death.


But neither do they not dance there if the opportunity arises.



danced on the edge

Just think about it.


Because in the end … dancing in business is fun. It’s the stuff that gets the heart pumping and when good stuff happens … and … well … that’s kind of why you are working for gods sake … those moments. All the rest of your working life is nothing but … well … no dancing.


So why miss any opportunity to dance … no matter where it is?


forever and one second

February 6th, 2014


Alice:                    “How long is forever?one second width

White Rabbit:    “Sometimes, just one second”


<Tim Burton … from Alice in Wonderland movie but never in Lewis Carroll’s books>



Regardless of whether this is a made up literary quote or not … it is a thoughtful thought.

It is kind of Tim Burton’s version of Mr. Margorium’s “37 seconds is a lifetime if used well.” < http://brucemctague.com/waiting-versus-living  >


I imagine I am writing about living instead of waiting … and recognizing that even if you do live … some moments in time are different than others <although they all surely look the same as they appear on the watch>.



Time is a funny thing.

It can ebb and flow all within a finite amount of time.

It can increase speed and decrease speed and yet remain an extremely identifiable finite amount of time.

one second yearsIt can take years of asking and creating questions … and a second to answer everything.


All of which makes me think of two things:


–          Memorable moments

–          Moment of clarity


Obviously they are not the same thing … but could end up being the same moment.




              Memorable moments.


I sometimes call these untangled moments.

Life is a tangled snarled bunch of moments. But every once in a while you inadvertently pull the right end of the string and the knot is released … everything becomes untangled.


It can be a smile from some across the room.

It can be a falling star.

It can be something really big … a seemingly small decision made amongst many.


Frankly … you don’t notice many of these ‘one seconds’ when they happen.


“In real life turning points are sneaky. They pass by unlabeled and unheeded. Opportunities are missed, catastrophes unwittingly celebrated. Turning points are only uncovered later, by historians who seek to bring order to a lifetime of tangled moments.” —Kate Morton, The House At Riverton


It is in reflection that these seconds last forever.

A moment etched in time.

These are truly ‘a second that is forever.’


Finally an interesting paradox … explained for you.


Now you can tell someone how one second can also be forever.



            Moments of clarity


Clarity is an amazing thing.

It can be forced externally <let’s call these ‘oh shit’ moments> and internally <I call these ‘lock picking’ moments>.


Oh shit moments.

Physiologically ‘oh shit’ moments actually causes the mind to become intensely focused. focusThis physiological response actually permits our brains to record more data than normal.


Physiologically what also happens is that memory then ends up replaying the information in slow motion mostly to assimilate all the additional information stored in there.

Think of it like filming something with a high speed camera and then replaying it at a normal speed.


I cannot figure out if time slows down … or our mind speeds up … to accommodate more information.


Doesn’t really matter.

Oh shit makes us focus … and when focused our minds are pretty amazing computers. They create moments of clarity. These moments may be fleeting <and some of us actually miss the clarity moment as it passes by> and we become simply overwhelmed by all the data.


That leads me to the internally forced moment of clarity.


The first is what I just explained above. Focused minds overwhelmed by data offer an open window to a moment in clarity.

The challenge?

Life slams the window shut pretty frickin’ fast.

You have to almost train yourself, and your mind, to see thru the window for the moment it is open.


The second is truly the ‘lock picking’ moment.


Lock picking moments.

Why do I call it ‘lock picking’?


one second beautyI don’t know how to crack a safe or pick a lock <and I imagine I wouldn’t broadcast it if I did> … but I do know what it feels like to have a moment of clarity when thinking about something. It is like having all the tumblers in the lock suddenly align and you hear the click of the lock unlocking.


And, yes, I swear I hear a sound in my head when it happens. Oh. And it is a frickin’ beautiful sound.


I am often asked to describe it … and I do so … but I cannot explain the noise of the moment of clarity when the tumblers align.

I imagine it is just in my head.

But I tell people that is what you are seeking. When everything just falls into place your mind will tell you in some form or fashion that you have entered into a moment of clarity.


Interestingly … maybe this is just me … but I have found that these moments are also very similar to the first one I described in that Life doesn’t hold that window open for long.


What I mean is that I have learned over time to write it down or say it out loud to someone when the tumblers fall into place.

Maybe the mind simply opens that door which you just unlocked and closes it behind you and you immediately enter a new hallway with dozens of other locked doors and the mind moves on.


I don’t know.


All I know is that moments of clarity are simply moments. They may echo in eternity <lasting forever> … but only if you actually recognize them.


If you don’t?

That one second just gets buried under the mound of other missed seconds.



“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?” – David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas



And yet … within the multitude of drops … the limitless ocean called Life …one second can be forever.




You just have to make sure you pay attention.


That said.

I will end with two relevant quotes from two great thinker/writers:


“Forever is made up of now.” – Emily Dickinson.



“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.” ― Kurt Vonnegut



Kurt & Emily probably loved Alice in Wonderland.


There is no why … because how can there be in a world of nonsense … where we seek to find some sense?

The ‘forever one seconds’ always end up being trapped in amber.


Here you go … the full Tim Burton script:infinite i sweaer


“It is better to be feared than loved.”

“The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?

Alice: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would.”

“I’m not strange, weird, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours”

”Alice: How long is forever? White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second”


In the end I can only chuckle.


One second?


Of course one second can be forever.

<and I am not entirely bonkers>


January 24th, 2014


“No one and nothing is worth shrinking for.” – Indigo Williamsshrinking goethe




I’m a pretty pragmatic guy.



Sometimes you have to push back a little … push back against reality.

Or maybe what everyone else sees as reality.



This isn’t about hope. And, shit, not even dreams and dreaming.


This is simply about … well … not shrinking. Or maybe not getting the life sucked out of you. Life is tough enough as it is … and Life does a pretty nice job of trying to erode you <wear you down> … that is its version of shrinking you.

Wearing you down.


It’s tough enough just keeping an eye out to insure Life doesn’t shrink you.


But other people?


They ain’t as big and important as Life.


Notice Life begins with a capital L and people begins with a small p.


That should make my point.


There are a lot of people out there who walk around as if they are a capital P type person … and maybe they have some title … and they even maybe have earned some respect … and absolutely you should listen to some people more closely than others … but no one is worth shrinking for.


I have seen many people … and often some very senior experienced people … fawn over little p people with big p titles … and if you look closely you can see them visibly shrink before your very eyes.

Its sad.

And slightly frightening to watch.



That’s proof enough that I will not permit that to happen.


Some people are more important than others … but no people is worth shrinking for.



How people use Life in a sneaky way to encourage you to shrink.



“People will kill you over time, and how they’ll kill you is with tiny, harmless phrases, like ‘be realistic’.” —Dylan Moran



These people <who have likely accepted self shrinkage> are doing and saying things so that you become like them … shrinkers.

stop hand

They will be relentless. And you need to say “stop.”


Yes … yes … yes. There is a pragmatic side.


You have to keep your eyes open and your mind clear and judge what is happening around you … but even a realistic decision shouldn’t diminish … shouldn’t shrink you … it <at its worst> should just put you on hold. A momentary situation until you can grow some more.


Shrink? Never.

Just watch out … because people <small p and big p minded people> can be sneaky in their attempt to encourage shrinkage.


In the end?


No one or nothing is worth shrinking for.


Simple as that.


ragged claws across the universe

December 31st, 2013


“I should have been a pair of ragged clawsragged claws brains

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” – TS Eliot



“Do I dare disturb the universe?” – TS Eliot




Both lines above come from TS Eliot’s poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.


In the 130 line poem Eliot explores Life from the depths of the ocean floor where one scrabbles out a living on ragged claws to the heights of the universe … and the immensity of Life that resides in between.



At least that is what I see and think when I read it.


And unfortunately <or fortunately> I am no literary expert and therefore do not have the ability to tear his writing apart evaluating what they call ‘literary allusion’ <… pulling from Donne, Dante, Shakespeare and Marvel to Chaucer, Hesiod and the Bible. A reader has to take these allusions on board to get the most out of his poems, though on the surface they are fairly accessible>.



I can only tell you what I think after I read it. That must mean ‘what is on the surface’ is what I imagine the experts would suggest I am doing.

So take what I share with a grain of salt <but read the poem>.



I admit that TS Eliot poems tend to make me think … stark language steeped with cynicism and a hint of urgency driven by desperation but always with an introspective look at Life.


ragged claws sense of ourselvesThis poem is about a person’s desperation that time in Life is running out and he hasn’t made his mark on the world.


I believe most of us have an ongoing thread of ‘am I being meaningful’ in Life. It is ongoing from the time we begin wondering what we will do in Life through the moment we step out of school and into the real world and continues as we do what we need to do day in and day out to survive and be the best we can within the circumstances we exist in.


I do tend to believe with age … we begin to obsess a little more over the whole idea of ‘being meaningful.’

That is what the poem makes me think about.

A man looking back on his Life, and at his life, and desperately assessing what could have been.


in my pea like brain the whole idea centers on adequacy.



Equal to what is required ior expected but not exceeding it by much. Adequate is suitable to the case or occasion. Nothing to rave about but meets what is needed.


I purposefully chose adequate to share my thoughts because it suggests we have what it takes to do what we need to do in Life … yet … is adequate enough?


Most of us muddle through Life with small glimpses of something bigger. Maybe it is slightly beyond our grasp for some reason we cannot truly understand … but the glimpse remains etched in our minds in such a way we tend to come back to it again and again in our thoughts.


I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,

And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,

And in short, I was afraid.



Is this what we fear as we ponder our lives?


That Death mocks us as it awaits our arrival?ragged claws someone to tell

The arrival could be years away … but it can be seen mocking even from afar.


I imagine the thought behind the mocking is found within us … in that I was afraid I was not good enough, did enough … or been enough of what I could have been.


I wasn’t adequate to be anything more than what I was.


There is a self-consciousness with constant introspection and anxiety about mortality and fragility of ‘doing something’ in life.


The poem digs deep into a self reflected desperation … which I don’t see as all consuming … but rather a moment of deep thought. A thought so deep that Life begins to become overcome with feelings of self-consciousness and regret and echoes of a hundred indecisions and a hundred visions and revisions.

The hundreds bombarding you in that one moment.


Luckily we tend to shed these moments well … and move on.

When we don’t we tend to be haunted.


Are we haunted by the Life led?

Or by the Life which we never led?


Regardless we are haunted.


This kind of soul searching for meaning is often simply seeking a richer association with Life than simply scrabbling with ragged claws.


And in that search and introspection of adequacy we often seem to dare to peek at unimaginable heights. The heights which we are uncertain we are adequate enough to not only explore but to survive and prosper.


Which leads to my favorite part of the poem.


There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create,

And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate,

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.


In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.


And indeed there will be time

To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”


ragged claws thinker doerAh.

Do I dare?

Do I dare to walk among the disdain I expect from the people who talk of Michelangelo?


Am I good enough to accept that I will have my time just as you have yours?


Am I only adequate to use ragged claws to survive the day to day depths of life?


Am I adequate enough to actually dare to do, and be, more?

To actually disturb the universe?


And then there is the immensity of Life that resides somewhere in between.


I tend to believe while we do not dwell on these types of questions … most of us ask them of ourselves at one time or another.


Ok. I will admit.

It is poems like this … at times of the year like this … that one ponders whether they have made a mark in the world.

Have they done something meaningful or maybe more importantly … ‘am I meaningful.’ And I don’t mean to people <because someone always cares about you> … I mean meaningful to something bigger … Life.


It is only the arrogant who say ‘yes I have.’


The majority of us just wonder.


And there is a discomfort in not knowing.

Not knowing if you have not only been adequate or whether you would have been adequate doing more.

Discomfort in not really knowing how ‘big’ we could be.

Discomfort in the belief that our ‘adequate’ made us little.


Discomfort in not really knowing if you could have been better … done better … and made a better difference.


In the end.

I gotta tell ya.


Having a tombstone read “he dared disturb the universe” would be quite a legacy.things doing wooden



To close.

A thought from Marianne Williamson which seems to tie well with the poem.


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?



Have a great 2014.

Dare to disturb the universe.


ragged claws——–


To read the entire poem.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – T.S. Eliot:    http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/eliot02.html


we happy few

December 29th, 2013

“From this day to the ending of the world,few people understand

But we in it shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother …” - Shakespeare’s Henry V




‘We happy few.’


In about 1801 aboard some ship it seems Admiral Horatio Nelson, quoting his favorite Shakespeare play, toasted a small group of his best friends and the leading captains/admirals in the Royal Navy as “we happy few.”



Let us remember that this small group helped a small island’s navy kick the crap out of every nation in the world.


That said.

When I began thinking about this and decided to write … it was focused solely on business. And it will remain so, however, as always … I seem to find that personal Life mirrors business life in many ways. Particularly if you define your Life <or let’s say that your Life is often defined by> what you do professionally.



I think we are all seeking our own “happy few.” People we can surround ourselves with that don’t comfort us … they just make us better.


I thought of this because I recently saw someone I worked with after almost 15 years. I had worked well with her. And after almost 15 years apart … we still worked well together. Ok. Not just well … but really well.


We were still part of ‘we happy few.’


This ‘happy few.’

The group in which we can not only be ourselves … but actually prosper.

These can be friends, coworkers or whomever.

Some symbiotic relationship seems to exist … even within some hierarchical relationship … that makes things better.

And maybe more importantly … make you better.


This ‘happy few’.


The people you go to battle with in life or in business.

The people who know what you are thinking before you even think it … and even when they don’t … when you surprise them … they don’t reject … but rather … well … think. Not out of respect but rather because they assume there has to be some thread of usefulness pragmatism or hope that can be used.


I have written several times about how great businesses are often somewhat based in some fashion of serendipity … having the right people at the right place at exactly the right time. < http://brucemctague.com/right-people-right-place-right-time >


I still am a firm believer in that.


Maybe even more so now.


Because after 15 years I have been reminded that in the seamless inner workings of a great business relationship of ‘we happy few’ … I know in my heart of hearts … if I could gather ‘we happy few’ in one place … at the right time … we would kick ass. And, in my case, having worked in a number of places … I believe I could gather the happy few from all places … put them together … and while they would all laugh at the common ‘me things’ which make me … well … me … in the end … the ‘we happy few’ would work well together as a ‘we.’


This happy few.


The few are defined by time … as well as a natural connection.

Time teaches the nuances. The timing of actions tied to intent. The ability to ‘see’ inside what is being thought in all dimensions … without all the explanation. And the comfort to stop and ask and explore and debate the unsaid before it is even said.


And then the natural connection.

In we happy few the leaps of logic are no longer leaps but simply common sense.

There is a tendency to not really imagine what is possible … because the happy few just see through some personal filter of what is possible.few thinking and feeling

There is no gap between thinking and feeling. It’s all connected among the happy few.  Discovery is messy but within a small interconnected group there always appears some form of tidiness.


What I just described is a natural thing … maybe honed by time … but the metal upon which is placed on the whetstone of time is already there.


Now <part 1>.

I am not suggesting the sea is always smooth. Nor am I suggesting the sailing is always seamless. In fact I tend to believe what makes a true ‘happy few’ is the conflict … and the resolution. The ability to fight and make up … without thinking it was a fight … nor that you are actually ‘making up.’

It just is.

The conflict is natural and positive … the resolution is natural and positive.

For some intangible reason the ‘what’s next’ portion of we happy few is attainable and possible and happens without any barnacles on the side of the ships to slow you down.


Now <part 2>.

This is all frustrating to those outside this small band of brothers.

Frustrating in that they need and want the words & explanations.

Frustrating because they want to separate <and often debate> the thinking and the feeling.

Frustrating because they can only imagine the finite and need comforting to step into the infinite.

Frustrating in that they only see the impossible and begin demanding the few whats nextpossible.

Frustrating because all they see is the mess in discovery and not the tidiness in the what is discovered.



This is ultimately all frustrating to the happy few because they are already thinking of ‘what’s next.’


This happy few.


It’s different than  family. It is certainly a professional thing.

Family can make you blind because its … well … blood. With family you can go through walls for someone … often for all the wrong reasons because of the one right reason … its family.


In the professional world?

This small band goes through walls for only one reason … the right reason. It is never <if but rarely> blind … but based on respect & trust & a sense of completion of something good based on something more than feeling <which family sometimes leans on>.


I feel sorry for those who professionally have not had the ‘we happy few.’ I would guess if you haven’t experienced it … you have been a little less successful. And I will not have to guess by saying you just haven’t received the full benefit of professional life.

You may attain a different success … but you haven’t attained the success of the camaraderie and trust and … well … the real opportunity to be open and be yourself in the professional world.


And maybe it’s that last thought that is the most important.


Because having been a leader <even in a smaller sense of the word and world> one of the most difficult things is to be … well … yourself. Open yourself up to exposing the flaws and mistakes and the sometimes stupidity that comes as the façade to what comes before something not stupid. And with ‘we happy few’ you have that small window of opportunity to open up. You don’t forfeit all the things that come with being a leader or having to lead … you just gain because you actually get to grow as a person.


And that is what we happy few is all about.

be yourself but judged

We got better.

They made me better.

And in doing so I got to lead and be a leader <through some luck of the draw>.


We happy few means being one of the luckiest people in the professional world.


And I believe Admiral Nelson knew that.

He was good at what he did. He was smart and intuitive and courageous. But I think in his heart of hearts … he knew he was lucky in that he was part of ‘we happy few’ which enabled him to be the best he could be.

His “we happy few” permitted him the luxury to rely on simple strategies rather than complicated complex plans. The interconnectedness of the small band made not only him, but all of them, certain in the knowledge everyone would support one another in striving toward the bigger objective … and yet be confident enough to use their own initiative when required. While the thinking was complex and sometimes leaned on a good dose of imagination in the end the thoughts were easily communicated in simple written instructions reinforced verbally when possible or necessary.

His captains were intelligent, experienced officers … they needed no more.


And that is what we happy few is in the professional world.


They need no more than each other to be happy.





———: historical note.


About Nelson’s “we happy few.”wellington nelson and dow

Nelson’s happy few were the Royal Navy captains who served under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson.  Several of which infamously served as his flag captain at different times. He originally used the term only for his captains at the Battle of the Nile but in correspondence it was deemd a broader perspective in Nelson’s eyes.


The ‘band of brothers’ comprised, in order of seniority, James de Saumarez, Thomas Troubridge, Henry d’Esterre Darby (1764?–1823), Thomas Louis, John Peyton (1760?–1809), Alexander Ball, Samuel Hood, Davidge Gould (1758–1847), Thomas Foley, George Westcott (who died of a wound sustained during the battle), Benjamin Hallowell, Ralph Miller, Thomas Thompson, Edward Berry, and Thomas Hardy. Those whom the naval historian Sir John Laughton considered worthy of an entry in the original Dictionary of National Biography were, with one exception, outstanding officers. Saumarez, Troubridge, Louis, Foley, Hood, Hallowell, and Hardy would hold important commands as admirals. Ball was the first governor of Malta, although he died before reaching flag rank. Thompson ran the Navy Board for a decade. Hardy topped them all: he became first sea lord in 1830 and helped erect Nelson’s Column. By contrast to the others, Edward Berry was prone to serious errors of judgement at sea and in combat. <source Andrew Lambert – Oxford University Press>


The one left off the list was most likely Nelson’s best friend and most respected companion … his second-in-command at the Battle of Trafalgar Cuthbert Collingwood. I have used Cuthbert in a post before: http://brucemctague.com/moment-to-do-the-extraordinary

still in search

September 29th, 2013

 “I’m still in search for what’s meant for me. I don’t know if i’m living or just alive. end of the world insistI look for paradise on Earth.” – Infinite <contributor on weheartit>



I look for a lot of images and thoughts on weheartit.com.

I often find that young people have a nice knack for reminding me of several things:


–          The constant battle between hope and despair

–          We never stop growing up

–          Life is truly a journey <and rarely do we reach a real destination>



And I imagine what young people really remind me is that no matter your age … we are all kind of still searching for ‘what’s meant for me.’


I know I am.


I know most of my friends are.


Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I know.

We talk about what we have and ‘things we have’ and how our children are our legacy and all that stuff … but deep down … when we really talk about what we think … we all are still kind of searching.


Are we as hopeful as this tween <’look for paradise on earth>? Nope.

We have been tainted by life somewhat and have our sights on something slightly less than ‘paradise.’


I tend to believe we older folk are simply searching for something meaningful.


I imagine that is what Infinite is really talking about … but in ‘tweenese’ <they have their own language sometimes>.


But as you peruse the images and thoughts she has on her wallpaper you wander through beautiful hopeful thoughts, disturbingly despairing and hurtful thoughts, angst over self, dreams of something better … and the normal every day young challenges of boys and friends and gossip and school.


I imagine those same thoughts are a reflection of even us old folk <without the dating and school and stuff like that>.


Like it or not, young or old, Life has a tendency to never reside in answers … but in questions. In wondering about things.

Things like:


–          Where are we?

–          Where are we going?

–          Where do we want to go?


Big questions.

Questions which gobs of books tell you how to navigate and answer and resolve in your head.


Throw those stupid books away.


infinte who you want to beWhether you are 15, 35 or 55 … those questions remain with us as we run Life’s gauntlet of hope and happiness on one side and despair and disappointment on the other.


We just keep going.

Searching for whatever it is that will be ‘us’ in the end … and … well … as Infinite suggests … maybe we find whatever paradise there is.


There are no answers.

Just keep asking the questions.



I like that thought.


Life is about asking questions.



And paradise.


That certainly is something truly worth seeking.

Enlightened Conflict