WHAT KIND OF VEHICLE ARE WE STEERING?

August 5, 2021

For anyone who has driven both a car and a boat, you understand that your car is more or less instantly responsive to a turn of the steering wheel under normal, dry conditions. With a boat, the reaction is much delayed because there is a lot less friction between the boat and the water than between the car tires and the road. To drive a boat, you need to know where you are going and turn your steering wheel well in advance of your need to turn. Similarly, on a boat you need to give yourself plenty of time to slow down and stop. If you come into shore or a dock expecting to stop like you would when applying the brakes in a car, you're going to have a crash.

I want to compare driving these two different vehicles to making changes in our lives. Is personal change more like a car or a boat? I believe most of the changes we make in life are more like driving a boat than driving a car. We may decide to change direction and it takes some time to see that change in direction reflected in the outer world. The steering wheel may turn immediately, but the boat does not. So, for a time, you may feel like your decision to change course is making no difference. That is generally because you have not given it enough time to take effect. For example, you may resolve to lose weight by eating fewer carbs and exercising more. You may make a decision and immediately start behaving differently. But it will take a while to see that decision reflected in your body. You turn the steering wheel, but the boat doesn't appear to be responding--yet.

The idea of control is an illusion. We don't have control over anything but our own thoughts. We may influence other people and events, but we really never have the level of control we want or even may believe we have. We have the power to move in a certain direction and nudge events in that direction. That's the best we can do.

I've heard Tony Robbins say that most people grossly overestimate how much they can do in a year and grossly underestimate how much they can do in five. I have found this to be true in my own life. The problem is, most people get discouraged after feeling like they aren't making progress after a single year.

I met Cathy five and a half years ago. We went on our first date 5 years ago last month. I didn't feel like I had much to offer except what was already inside me. I had been laid off from my corporate job less than a year before and even more recently divorced from my second wife. I had started a law firm with no clients about seven months before. I was still couch surfing with my parents. (I got my own modest place like a month later.) I did apply for a few jobs, but didn't even get an interview. Who wants to hire an unemployed, middle-aged, white male lawyer with no book of business who has been out of law practice for more than three years? Sometimes it felt like I was stuck and could not get unstuck.

In my second year of that law practice, I made about $75,000--not bad for a law firm in its second year that was started with no clients and no money. I was starting to build a good book of business. But five years later, I was making six figures, got offered a dream job, and was married to an amazing and beautiful woman. With her, I had authored a book, which is about to be published, and started Love in Later Years. The old boat has turned a lot in the last five years. A little course correction has made miles and miles of difference in where I have ended up so far. It was not without it's setbacks. At the end of 2017, I lost my biggest client. I had come to rely on that client quite a lot, so it took a couple of years to recover from that loss and exceed the money I was making before.

If you are recently divorced or widowed and feel stuck in the mud, I promise that decisions you make now will make a big difference down the road, even though it seems like you are getting nowhere at present. Focus on the direction you are going instead of the place you are currently at. That is called vision. Focus on doing what you can today to reach that destination. That is called faith. Focus on turning the wheel, even though the boat seems not to be responding.

Our God and His creation do not typically respond as quickly as the turn of a steering wheel in your car or the click of a mouse on your computer. Instant gratification is mostly against the law of nature. You can plant seeds, and fertilize and water them. But standing over them yelling at them to grow faster will get you nowhere except frustrated. You simply need to have the faith to plant and water, and the patience to let them grow. But if you do that, know that sooner or later the harvest is coming. You will find that partner of your dreams, build that business or get that dream job, and create the life you have pictured. Just be aware that you will sometimes feel like you are getting nowhere even, when you are actually making progress. Your seeds will seem to be taking forever to grow, until you see that little green sprout coming out of the ground.

I want you to know that Cathy and I believe in you. No matter how low your life has sunk, you can have hope that it will come back better than before. You can have the kind of relationship you want. You can rebuild your career. You can get out of couch surfing and into your own home. It takes faith, vision, and patient persistence.

Rocky was a very popular movie because he was the underdog that never had a moment of good luck in his life and yet achieved something monumental. The best sports stories are the "come from behind" victories. I think most of us want to believe that can be us in our own lives. I am telling you it can be. The biggest enemies of happiness and success are discouragement and disillusionment. Those things rob us of the faith and hope we need for fuel.

Don't give up my friends. No matter how hard life may have gotten for you, it has a way of getting better. Keep dreaming and keep trying, and put your faith in a loving Father in Heaven, and, sooner or later, the sun will come out again.
Love in Later Years © 2021
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