Effort and Reward


The mortal asked the gods, “What shall I do?”

They answered–“Strive for what you can.”

“That is not enough.” The man responded.

“Then strive for what you can’t,” Came the reply.

I sat in a meeting with my writing friends, and one of the members began talking about predictions (perhaps they were dreams) for her yet unfinished book. Later, in talking with another writer, I mentioned what she had said and expressed my thoughts that her expectations were lofty and likely to never happen. He listened patiently and told me–“Well, it’s certainly not going to happen if she doesn’t try.” He was right.

Later, I thought about that conversation. I also thought about the plaque that is on the wall where professional tennis players enter Louis Armstrong Stadium to play matches at the U S Open. The plaque says, Pressure is a Privilege” The connection of recent conversations and that plaque started me thinking.

It feels to me that we live in an age of increasing mediocrity. A place where just good enough reigns and getting by is becoming the norm. And I think what life would be without dreams, hopes, and persistence?

Who would be in the NBA if no one dared dreamed of making that happen? Would we have landed on the moon and returned, or found a vaccine for polio if we’d listened to the Nay Sayers proclaiming it can’t be done?

Now, in this stage of life, I spend a lot of time and energy writing, and many of my friends are also writers. We each have different reasons why we put pen to paper. Some are with dreams of the next bestseller, and all that goes with that accomplishment. Others long to write just one magical sentence. No reason is right, and no reason is wrong as long as it is the honest why that we do it.

I can only speak for myself, but I am keenly aware of the difference I feel when I have put my heart and soul into doing something and when I have simply gone through the motions and said, that’s good enough. Life is too short to drink weak coffee, and it’s too short to not give it our best shot.

I’ll repeat the line from the Mary Oliver poem, The Summer Day

                         Tell me, what is it you plan to do

                     with your one wild and precious life?

We may all have regrets at the end of our lives, but I hope that we can all say it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Go well, my friends, and may your books be best sellers, your basketball shot win the NBA finals, and may you embrace pressure as a privilege.

Some last thoughts.

John Steinbeck was told by a professor that he would be an author when “When pigs flew.” And so he had this printed on every book he wrote – ad astra per alas porci. “To the stars on the wings of a pig.”

“My grandmother told me a long time ago, ‘I don’t care if you’re sweeping a porch for a living,’ she said, ‘You need to do your best.’ So I’ve lived by that every single day

                                                                                                    Tori Bowie

“One finds limits by pushing them.”

                                          Herbert Simon

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