Thoughts On Leading A Meaningful Life

Who Am I?

When I was very young, maybe five or six, I had a thought: your failures define how good a life you have.

It’s through failures and mistakes that you learn. These, or how you act and react to them, make the real difference.

So, you work to not repeat the bad parts.

You are NOT your failures and mistakes; but they are the things that make you different from everyone else. You need to learn quickly that the real problem with most people is that they keep trying to do the same things and expect different results.

Some people may look at my seventy-plus years of living and see someone who is not successful. If you measure success by huge amounts of income and accumulated wealth, then, for sure, I’m not successful.

BUT…

I’ve traveled over most of the world. And most of that travel has been paid for by others. I’ve played various games at professional levels, even made money at them, and had a reasonable career, enough to keep my wife and children on a reasonable level of comfort. I’ve been a writer — poet, technical writer, ghost writer, short story writer, and more.

Most of all, I’ve found new ways to make mistakes and looked at how I can avoid repeating them.

It all goes back to the realization at five or six that life is about finding ways to fail.

And that the best are the Magnificent Failures.

They are magnificent, because they opened the doors to seeing how to recover from them, and do things better than I could before.

Not that many years ago, I was playing chess with one of my grandchildren, and the child was disappointed because I won the games.

‘You can’t DO that, grandpa!’ came the words after the third or fourth time “You’re supposed to give me a chance to win!”

‘Why?’

‘Because I’m young and I deserve to win a few games.’

‘Then learn the lesson.”

‘What lesson?’

“That you start winning when you learn all the ways to lose.’

‘But how can I do that, if I keep losing?’

I smiled. ‘What did you do wrong? It’s not that I’m a much better player than you are. It’s that I made fewer mistakes. But you’ll never win, until you learn how to lose.’

Oh, I’ve played chess with my other grandchildren, and it has led to the same lesson — learn all the ways of losing first; the better you learn these, the greater your chances of winning a game or two.

Nowadays, of course, they all can beat me in chess, more often than they lose. But there is one thing for sure: they all still expect to lose, even when they win. They are ready for those magnificent failures.

Maybe I don’t have as much of the trappings of success as many other people. Like my grandkids, I’m still looking for ways to lose. But I keep on trucking, and have a great time doing it, and keeping up a meaningful life!

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Love and Presents

It was just after Christmas…

I was browsing the Web as I usually do, when I came across a complaint:
“My parents don’t love me — they bought me the latest blue iPhone and not the gold one I wanted!”

Shock! Horror! How could loving parents do such a horrible thing?

Of course, anyone with a brain knows that one should never look a gift horse in the mouth. Gifts are a way of showing that one cares for someone. They are given (hopefully) with no strings attached, no expectation of getting something in return.

But, as I shook my head at such crass materialism, I began to wonder… Maybe this tweeny-bopper was right.

Is buying the latest and greatest gadgetry really showing love?

I never knew my own grandparents (either side), but I did know my parents. And, yes, as a ten to 14-year-old, there was much that I wanted to have, hopefully from my parents. Things like a bicycle, or a scooter. I loved books and comics. And all kinds of things I saw in the newspapers.

But we were comparatively poor. Dad was not well-paid, and Mum did all kinds of things to get a bit more cash into the household budget — seamstress, laundress, dressmaker, hat presser, and much more. Despite these shortcomings in the cash department, my siblings and I didn’t want for much. Sure, we had hand-me-down clothing from better-off relatives (as well as each other). And we really had to scrape for me to get a school uniform. An ice cream cone or whatever was a luxury, and Mum baked out birthday cakes or special treats. Our main meats were mince (hamburger) and sausages or some of the very cheap cuts of meat — I only learned about fillet mignon and sirloin and the really tender meats after I started at University. We used bacon drippings as a substitute for butter (I still love a slice of bread soaked with bacon grease).

I could go on about how poor we were, but, really, we kids felt like we were far better off than 90% of the people we knew.

Why?

Because the one thing our parents gave us was their time. Even though Dad worked (on the job or travelling to and from work), he tried very hard to spend time with all of us. He showed us how to use tools, and how to repair the bicycle that we finally got, an ancient thing that had a single gear, in a girl’s model. That was for ALL of us — my brother, sister and me. Not a flash racing bike with umpteen gears. Dad picked it up from a garbage dump; he cleaned it up, oiled it properly, found inner tubes for the tires, straightened out the frame and more. He took the time to make it look a bit flash, with decals and a bell.

I remember being a little disappointed — the bike was just a tad on the small side for me, but it worked well for my sister. So, I tended to think that it was “bought” for her, rather than something for all three of us (although my brother was much younger, and too small for it).

It was only later that I started to realize how lucky I was to have a father like that, someone who would give generously of his time, because that was the one thing he could give us. He was there to help us learn the joys

  • of walking in the parks and woods,
  • of picking mushrooms from the forests and fields,
  • of finding frogs and toads hidden in small streams and ponds,
  • of being able to laugh and shout
  • of winning a few dollars on the pools and horse races

Hopefully, I’ve passed those joys to our kids and to my grandchildren who are contemporaneous with the tweeny-bopper and his blue iPhone. Nothing really great, but the idea that the most precious thing that we can give other people is our own time.

That’s where love really resides…

Peter (L.E.Gant)

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What’s your Heart Song?

That animated feature “Happy Feet” had one thing right — we all have our heart songs.

Some are very old. They can go back hundreds of years, while others are

comparatively recent. Many are folk songs, often from different countries. But the trick is to find the one that fits you, and not any person you are likely to meet in this lifetime.

Oh, there may be other people who have the same heart song as you do, but you’ll usually find that there is some part of the song that fits better than any other part.

For instance, mine is an old song that goes something like”

“I’m a rambler, I’m a gambler.
I’m a long way from home
And if you don’t like me,
Then leave me alone!
I’ll eat when I’m Hungry
I’ll drink when I’m dry
But Moonshine won’t kill me
I’ll live till I die!”

That’s the part that I usually remember, but there’s a lot more. Not just that, but I occasionally add my own verses, like:

“Sit down beside me,
I’ll tell you no lie
A glass is for comfort
We’ll ‘ave two, bye and bye.”

Of course, you can have more than one heart song. Me, I can relate to quite a few, like Bonnie Tyler’s “Tyre tracks and Broken Hearts” (but not all the words fit — I don’t need a push-up bra), But the basic relationship in all of them is that I’m a wanderer, a drifter. I refuse to be categorized — “Don’t fence me in”!

Take a couple of hours, do some research, and listen for those words and tunes that pull you into their words, that tell YOUR story in a highly encapsulated way.

Don’t worry that all the lyrics do not apply to you — replace them with ones that do, even if you have to write them yourself.

What will your heart song do for you?

Well, when under stress or in fear, they can help you face your fears or your foes. As in songs from “The Sound of Music” (Raindrops and roses, and white woolly kittens…) or from “The King and I” (I whistle a happy tune). When you’re overly happy, it can help you stabilize, remind you that things can change, and that you need to enjoy today, regardless of what will happen tomorrow.

Either way, you’re ahead of the game, whatever it is!

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