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✔️ Just Do It ✔️
A Call to Creative Action
During the first period of a man's life the greatest danger is not to take the risk.
Your greatest enemy is idleness: fight it without let up.
—St. John Bosco
The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him...a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.
—Pearl S. Buck
Above: Less Looking, More Leaping.
Hockey coaches do their fair share of yelling and hollering. It is neither rare nor uncommon and very much comes with the territory. In fact, one might even say that a sore throat is an occupational hazard of coaching
What is rare, however, is when some of these screamed exhortations, worn out quips, motivational credos get through the plastic helmets and thick skulls of a coach’s team; when something said in passing or passion sticks to the folds of his players’ brains.
One such phrase came from an old coach and good friend of mine. Before we took the ice every game, without fail he would growl the same clever rejoinder as collective call to action. Like most mottos and refrains that linger, it was short, catchy, and clear.
Amidst the stale air and palpable tension of the pregame locker room, he would roar loudly, repeatedly, clearly:
Gentlemen, remember: NO COWS!
No Coulda, Oughta, Woulda, Shoulda!
I can still hear his folksy, midwestern accent echoing off my plastic pads and dented metal locker.
I can still feel his words permeating my rank polyester jersey and holey cotton socks.
In work and in sport and in life, I have always sought to take this advice to heart.
Every chance that I get, I strive to make the most of the chances, shots, opportunities that percolate within the messy melting pot that is life. I endeavor to run hard and shoot for the top, to never let another have the seat that I might, should, could have had.
The only way to do this is, per Longfellow, to “be up and doing” so as to pump continual, outsized doses of serendipity into one’s life. I have found that serendipity exists as an integral ingredient in life’s alchemy. To shy away from it is to rob yourself of the many wonders lurking around every corner.
It all starts with the actual doing. It is the very means and is more than enough.
As I wrote in a previous piece:
White Noise is the closest thing that I have to a tattoo.
It is equal parts love letter and exposé.
It is a sort of Chicken Soup for Tom’s Soul.
It is my fight against the pervasive forces of apathy, cynicism, and ego that abound now more than ever before.
It is the most personal thing that I have ever made.
By writing week in and week out, I am forced to explore my ideas, interrogate my values, and understand who and why I am.
Unfortunately, not many people do that these days. In fact, most don’t even try because it’s too damn hard.
Most people shirk such things because of genuine angst and pervasive worry. An unwelcome houseguest in everyone’s head is the nagging, irksome voice that asks:
What if I flail?
What if I fail?
What if I let myself—and others—down?
For me, this obstacle became the way when I realized that worry was no more than evidence of authentic love. In time, I gradually understood that my deep care for both my craft and your time created a pressure inside of me that manifested as worry. In short, I worried because I cared.
When I ascertained this, I no longer feared the publish button. By tapping into my love for the craft, worry became wellspring of fuel to power words, sentences, paragraphs that I felt confident sharing.
By choosing to send my very best creations, reflections, and pensées into the ether, my work has come the digital doorsteps of tens of thousands of individuals. All this only because I do not keep my ideas to myself!
My only regret is not doing so much sooner. Now that I know the secret, the magic, the power, I wish that I had started ten years earlier.
Like all projects worth tackling or goals worth hounding, the act of creating both boldly and unreservedly benefits others just as much as—if not more so—than ourselves.
Imagine if Einstein had stayed in the patent office, Shakespeare had put down the quill, or Parks had risen from her seat.
Though we cannot predict whether our various creations will lead to such staggering outcomes as the above, that is perfectly fine.
It is not our job to judge our own work. It is our job to create it, to pour ourselves into it, and to master our craft as best we can.
The means serve as the ends. Like the Olympic Games, the most important thing is not to win, but to take part.
After all, the greatest trap in life is telling yourself that you will do something important later. Excuses create their own inertia and the longer you wait, the harder it becomes.
Later is where dreams go to die. Someday doesn’t exist. Both are figments of the aspirational imagination.
Life isn’t a game of tag; dreams and goals don’t chase you back. Choosing not to do anything is the worst choice of all because your opportunity cost becomes everything. The longer you spend undecided, the greater that cost grows.
You cannot know if you don’t swing, if you keep the bat forever resting on your shoulder. Turn that which is potential into the kinetic; step up to the plate, swing hard, and—BOOM—the next thing you know, you’re rounding the bases. One piece of solid contact could be the home run that defines your year, career, or even life.
That said, nothing happens if you do not disseminate publicly into the ever-expanding entropic universe. Unfinished projects, pieces, and products cannot compound, after all. Colin Jost said it best in his sidesplitting memoir, A Very Punchable Face:
Being forced to generate something every week means at some point you'll be tired enough to let down your guard and write the dumbest idea that pops into your head because your brain can't think of anything better. And sometimes that turns out to be the best sketch you wrote all year.
By creating, you learn.
By learning, you teach.
By teaching, you change lives.
Through the transitive property of equality, by creating you change lives. Much like how Robin Williams and John Keating did in reality and Dead Poets Society, respectively.
Per the above, we are all teachers in our own way. Our lives are nothing more than the compounding of countless small decisions that serve as lessons both to ourselves and to others.
To quote a magnificent piece of writing from Notre Dame Magazine:
The funny thing about teachers is that they don't just impart knowledge. They don't just share their zeal for learning, their joy of discovery. It is more than the proficiencies handed down, the seven reasons, four causes and other answers long forgotten. More than the things discussed in class, in their office or over coffee, their character persists. They show us how to go about it, how to approach life, how to walk through it. They enter us. We are made of their giving, the life lessons and the light bulbs going on, the pieces of memory comprising the mosaic of who we become. These memories are my stories, but each of us is a universe of composite parts, the accumulation of all those we carry around inside of us — and they thread through our lives in real and beneficial ways, appearing, reappearing in person or living in our thoughts.
Even without knowing where or why or how or when, we become the stuff of others, showing up in their memories, their reveries, our lives passing beyond our own, itinerant guests in a weaving of stories without endings.
It is a scientific fact that both giving and gratitude reciprocate.
Ironically—and beautifully, I might add—the more you open your life and give, the more you receive.
All stories have value, every voice has a unique timbre, each anecdote contains important lessons buried deeply within. If nothing else, by telling yours you are contributing to that dance of the human condition and leaving your legacy. And in my brief time on this earth, I have found that omission stings far more sharply than commission.
How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. We are always becoming something, for better or worse.
Experience is the oldest teacher known to man; we must serve as its loyal emissary.
So write that post.
Record that podcast.
Tell the girl you love her.
Hell, even twerk on TikTok.
In short, per my coach’s sage, bovine quip and the wise words of Shia LaBeouf, don’t moo, just do (it).
What are you waiting for?
Above: Which path will you take?
Per my about page, White Noise is a work of experimentation. I view it as a sort of thinking aloud, a stress testing of my nascent ideas. Through it, I hope to sharpen my opinions against the whetstone of other people’s feedback, commentary, and input.
If you want to discuss any of the ideas or musings mentioned above or have any books, papers, or links that you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of White Noise, please reach out to me by replying to this email or following me on Twitter.
With sincere gratitude,