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The Admiral, “Iron Mike,” & The Father of Psychology by Mark Hatmaker


It’s the first week of the New Year and likely many of us are in the throes of commitment [or re-commitment.] We use the turn of a calendar page to assess ourselves, where we are now and where we want to be.

It’s a lovely tradition, a wise practice. It need not be tied to a mere one-day or one-month per year as “everyday is a new dawn” but…

If we’re going to resolve, let’s resolve big, and resolve wisely.

First, why do so many of us like the idea of increasing our resolve, forging our will?

Because many of us have our heads on straight to the fact that we are mortal. We’re all going to die, every tick of the analog second-hand is one tick closer to the end.

And if we’re really paying attention, that end is not necessarily some distant
“Golden Years” fading.

I have, and many of you have, up close and personal experiences with no matter how old you are, no matter your current state of health—we can be done and snuffed or altered in an instant.

The more we put off, the less we’ve lived. Of course, if our definitions of living the good life is making sure that every single new Netflix show receives our eyes-on attention, well, many of us are rock-solid achievers.

If our definitions of living are a bit more expansive…well, you’re who I’m talking to. You’re my kind of Crew.

Here’s William James, the author of the magisterial The Principles of Psychology on our subject.

He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he tried and failed.”

One-Our unique opportunity is this gift of life we are all in the midst of. Let us not take it for granted. And might I suggest anytime we feel like we’ve got all the time in the world to get our ducks in a row, grab a few care-gifts and go have a visit of a Neuro-Surgery ICU Ward. Distribute your gifts to those who can enjoy them, have a chat [with those still able to chat that is] and see if our “immortal” perspective is recalibrated to reality.

I’m going to disagree with Mr. James in one aspect of his quote, I tread lightly here as I have imminent respect for the man.

Again…

He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he tried and failed.”

My quibble? The man or woman who at least resolves even if it ends in “failure” still has the experience of what it feels like to try. They have more life in the plus column than the human who never even took the stab at life.

Let’s say you tell everyone “I’m gonna climb Everest this year!” You start training by hiking more and climbing a few of your local non-Everesty mountains and then you sort of fizzle out and never get to Everest.

Well, don’t we still have a more interesting human being in someone who at the very least got out and climbed a small mountain than the human being who never takes any step towards a higher elevation?

Surely, try is better than not try.

Do is better than not do.

Experience is better than watching other’s experiences on YouTube or Facebook.

Often where our resolutions fail is hinted at in the word itself—our resolve fails us.

Resolutions on paper, on status posts, and in the exchange of gases that leave our lips are mighty easy to make.

It’s the pragmatics and logistical application that often spells the difference between Netflix and our foothills that stand in for Everest.

I’m ready to train this morning! Everybody at the gym better look out tonight!”

Will I feel the same way after it turned rainy and I spent longer than I thought at the brake shop?

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”-Mike Tyson

Iron Mike is referring to our propensity to dream, to spout off, to plan like A+ Can-Do SOBs, but contact, contact with life lets us know how truthful we are.

It is about truth isn’t it? If you say to yourself or to others “I’m gonna learn Spanish this year” but you don’t, you are by the very definition of the word—a liar.

Failed resolutions are lies we cut slack to and I wager that is for one reason—we don’t want to be called on our own failed resolutions, our own lies.

In any other discourse we’d call it what it is, a lie, but here…

Contact with reality makes many of us liars. Here’s Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan on contact.

Contact, a word which perhaps better than any other indicates the dividing line between tactics and strategy.”

Often the only difference between “us” and those who “do” is that “those who do” resolve “to do” even when they “don’t wanna do.”

In other words, their resolve survives contact with reality and they are, quite literally, more honest than those of us who talk big but live small.

In 2019, may we all resolve well, live, I mean really live well, be honest to our cores, and know that contact will alter our trek, but it doesn’t have to make us stop trekking.

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