There once was a man named Carl, who discovered a bedazzled lamp laying under a rose bush on his trip to the corner grocer. He’d hoped to procure a cupcake, pistachios, a lotto ticket and a hot dog. The lamp was an unexpected bonus! Images of Disney’s Aladdin danced in his mind’s eye, a film he’d brought his very first girlfriend to see–the one who later dumped him over his refusal to skydive with her. So much for soaring above the clouds on a magic carpet ride. Though he felt a little foolish, he went ahead and gave the lamp a good rub down and wouldn’t you know, a genie swam out of the spout, swirled about in the air and poofed himself into an oversized, floating bust atop a sparkling cloud. With gleaming pride, the Genie looked down upon Carl and exclaimed, “Good afternoon, Master, it will be my honor to grant you three wishes.” Carl began to ponder the possibilities of his good fortune but was interrupted by the roar of his stomach as he realized his destination was within eyesight. Being led by his impulses, Carl replied, “Uh, you know what Genie, I’ve just one wish. My wish is to live for ten thousand years.”
The genie waited for more but Carl started past him toward the corner store. Going off-script, the genie called after him, “Hey man, you sure you don’t wanna add a few more sentences to that wish, or maybe use your second and third one? I mean it’s not everyday you find a magic lamp under a bush beside a few bent cigarette butts and a wad of chewing gum?”
Carl looked back and hollered, “No Genie, just grant my one wish. Trust me, I played this scenario over in my head countless times. Ten thousand years should give me plenty of time to reach perfection. It’s the only wish I’ve ever had and it’s the only wish I’ll ever need.”
And like that, ten thousand years of life were bestowed upon Carl. “Hot diggity–hot dogs, here I come!,” he told himself.
Winning the longevity super jackpot left Carl buzzing but it wouldn’t be long before Carl came to understand the error of his thinking. You see, the genie, true to his profound genie-ing skills, gave Carl the ability to live an absurdly long life but because Carl neglected to ask the genie to resolve any of the internal roadblocks preventing him from living the life he already had, his win soon devolved into a extremely heavy burden.
What importance was the Guinness Book of World Records award for Longest Living Human for a person burdened with debilitating fears and habits left unresolved over the centuries?
I really feel for this hapless dude. Feeling helpless towards your anxiety and fears, day in and day out, is exhaustingly painful. I think the feeling is best described in “The Scream” by Edvard Munch
Have you ever felt like the subject of that painting?
My friends, I’ve spent so much of my life being that pain-stricken, screamer dude. Internally wailing and grinding my teeth at the knowledge that I would one day die and that I might not live my life the absolute-most-perfectly-right way. It’s possible, I suppose, that magnificent things could happen after death….but I haven’t ever wanted to find out. I’ve strained with all my might trying to keep a white-knuckle hold on the absurd idea that I might somehow live forever if I do absolutely EVERYTHING right.
Death just seems so unnatural, doesn’t it? To think that we’re here for the moment but that one day we will not be? How are we supposed to even conceive of that reality?
“The Little Mermaid” says, “The grass is always greener in somebody else’s lake.” Well, the only lake I’ve ever wanted to swim in is the eternal Fountain of Youth.
But what would it be like to live forever if, like Carl, we are scared to death of getting any of it wrong?
I don’t want that either.
I’ve discovered life can be so much more fulfilling when you do your imperfect best to switch your focus away from your inevitable demise to:
- Finding the courage to take risks
- Nurturing a vision for your life that excites you and then going for it, one day at a time.
- Discovering the strength to be kind to yourself when you make mistakes
- Learning from your mistakes and using their knowledge to propel you forward.
- Leveraging challenges as a way to grow and discover new opportunities
- Holding gratitude as often as possible for this gift of life, especially when it’s not wrapped with a pretty bow
I’m striving for as Lion King says, “Hukuna Matata.” For those of you who have never had the privilege of knowing a Lion King fan who played the soundtrack on repeat, it means, “no worries for the rest of your days.” I’m finding far from being just a catchy tune, “Hukuna Matata” can be a vigorous lifelong challenge.
I’d love to end this post by prescribing the proven cure to what ails you–or, at least, an answer like “true”, or “yes”, maybe “23”–but like each of us, I only have my imperfect best words, my imperfect best love, and my imperfect best life to give.
Accepting that we will never fully understand this complex life and finding the bravery to do our Imperfect BEST regardless, is how I’m convinced we help each other through it.
I have faith that will be enough. We don’t need unnaturally long lives to realize the goodness of the lives we have been given.
Be well. And as Peter Pan says . . . just kidding three Disney movies are enough for one blog.
JASON FREEMAN is a Professional Speaker and the proud owner of a Speech Impediment. He is also the author of “Awkwardly Awesome: Embracing My Imperfect Best” and a Perseverance Coach.
He excites and encourages his audience to break through the barriers of their own limitations using a method he created, called “Doing your Imperfect Best ™”.
His Imperfect TEDx Talk can be viewed here.