Well, a month has passed since New Year’s Day — how do those resolutions look to you now? Does your steely resolve gleam in the sunshine like a flashing sword of truth? Or did it all somehow get stashed away in the cupboard along with Aunt Martha’s gravy boat?
I’ll tell you one promise I made last December. It is to stop telling friends that I’m just too busy. This actually was inspired by a friend who had simply heard one too many people claim that they’ve been too busy, you know, to keep in touch, get together, have a drink, enjoy life properly. Her response, finally, was to screech: “Don’t tell me you’re too busy!!”
It struck me that the claims of being busy had become a pointless mantra. And yet almost everyone I know is given to these proclamations of exasperation. Sometimes we need fresh perspective. And generally the most valued perspective comes from voices from the past. Sometimes I am haunted by something I heard quite a while ago from a fellow named Richard Boyle. He had served a couple of tours in Vietnam, and the experience defined him, and yet he always endeavored to keep up a serene appearance — even as he gobbled nitroglycerin for his heart troubles. We were in the office one day, working on a publishing venture, when the ad guy stormed in, flopped on the couch and announced dramatically: “I’m exhausted!”
“Exhausted?” Boyle replied evenly. Above his desk loomed a wall-sized map of Vietnam. “Exhausted,” he explained, “is when there are seven men left out of fifty, and the colonel demands, ‘Hold your position.’ ”
While pondering the great issue of too much busyness the other day, a note fell out of my desk drawer. It was the rules of living devised by John Wooden, the greatest college basketball coach ever, the “Wizard of Westwood,” an always classy, unruffled gentleman who piloted UCLA to a record ten NCAA championships. Of all the people I’ve interviewed in my life, a special few just radiated some cosmic sense of composure and wisdom, and to be around them for only an hour left you feeling like a million bucks. Wooden, now ninety-six, is one of those very special people. I saw the note and murmured, “Thanks, John.”
Take his words to heart. They’ll only make it lighter.
Be true to yourself.
Make each day your masterpiece.
Drink deeply from good books.
Make friendship a fine art.
Build a shelter against a rainy day.
Pray for guidance and give
thanks for your blessings every day.
— John Wooden’s Seven Point Creed,
given to him by his father, Joshua