My twenty-ninth birthday was last Wednesday, May 21st.
I was not a professional baseball player on that day, nor a professional writer, or even a lawyer for that matter.
But you know what? My wife went into labor with our second son, David Cook won American Idol, and the Yankees began to turn their season around with the first of five straight wins, en route to a 6-and-2 mark through last night.
I mean, honestly. Can anyone ask for a better birthday?
The secret to happiness, I have begun to realize, is appreciating what has been given to us, not what other people have or what they have accomplished. And the secret to accomplishment is dedicating your sole purpose to physically getting something done, as opposed to dreaming about it on a nightly basis, or during the day in the back of a New York City bus, or on the couch with a beer and the ballgame.
Take, for example, the wonderful world of baseball. If X player comes up in Y situation and does not come through, one team wins, one team loses, and that player has to deal with his failure. However, if that same player causes Z to happen, well then, he is a hero, a winner, and a physical God all wrapped into one shining, clutch performance. The difference between success and failure in all walks of life is doing that which you set out to do in the first place. For an athlete it’s a hit, a pass, a catch, or a kick. For an artist it’s an audition, a take, a track or a note. For me, the indifferent law school graduate who wants to inspire himself before he even attempts to inspire someone else, it’s a thought, an idea, a paragraph, or a final draft.
One day I will finish something I’ve started in this crazy life, and that will make all the difference. What I have been lacking for the last twenty-nine years is the effort to make it so.
And that’s what people want to see more than anything from someone on TV, across the airwaves, or embedded in a newspaper or magazine – effort. They want to see you hustle, take risks, and leave it all out their between the lines, inside the frame, or up on that stage. They want to see you sweat, suffer, and grow as you overcome all obstacles in your path, and they want to see you do it with grace and humility.
This is why everyone loves Derek Jeter and questions Alex Rodriguez.
This is why the country crowned David Cook over David Archuleta.
This is what inspires people, and in the end, that is all the matters to most of us in this perpetual, corporate rerun of a fast food, cynical, sarcastic, and corrupt sitcom called Society.
Talent only begets opportunity. Character and heart beget respect. And respect, my friends, turns into the love, admiration, and inspiration required to do something truly great with your talent.
Take, for example, my courageous and gracious wife, who has inspired me for the better part of eleven years now. Take also David Cook, who has inspired me for the past five months. And, don’t look now, but the Yankees are on the verge of inspiring me once again. As of last night’s 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, they are 26-27, Alex Rodriguez has returned to the lineup, and Joba Chamberlain is on his way to the rotation. Signs of life and fire and effort are brewing in the Bronx, and all that is left now for this team to do is to physically accomplish that which it set out to do in the first place.
Win baseball games.
Take a lesson from David Cook, would you all please? Dig deep, be true to yourselves as athletes and people, and let your hearts hang out there for the world to see on the TV, across the airwaves, or embedded in the newspapers or magazines.
Maybe then you will inspire yourselves, and become a truly great team.
Only then will you find the effort it takes to win it all. I will be watching, of course, waiting for the inspiration that makes all the difference in the world.