What if I told you there was a pill you could take that would make you skinny? What if I told you there was a dance you could do that would pay off all your debts and fill your savings account? What if I told you you could blink three times and spin around and all of your problems would disappear?What if I told you there was a magic genie in a bottle of Pepsi that could change your life in an instant and give you everything you ever wanted?
Would you take it?
It seems like a no brainer. Of course you would, right? You’d take the pill, do the dance, spin around and blink. You’d rub the bottle and speak your wishes. Or would you?
We all play the lottery game. We all imagine life on a beach. We all have moments when we’d like everything that keeps us up at night to go away. But what happens after a month on that beach? What happens when everything is perfect? We get bored.
I was thinking about this the other day. An email came through announcing kindergarten registration for the class of 2029, my daughter’s class. I did some math and realized I’ll be 51, still more than 15 years from retirement. It got me thinking about life and the long game. I’m a person that sweats the immediate. I worry. I wish it would all go away. But this subtle reminder of time and longevity made me realize that, despite the challenges I face, I’m not sure I would ever wish them away, even if I could.
We don’t learn anything when magic solves our problems. We don’t grow or expand. We don’t become better just because the bad parts get cut away. We get better by fixing the problems, by working through the challenges, by finding ways to heal the bad parts instead of wishing them away.
Life, I’m realizing, is a series of challenges and responses. It’s a continuous stream of problems and decisions made to solve them. I want to lose weight. I want to have more money. I want to have better relationships, be a better husband, friend and dad. I won’t get there through magical thinking. I will only get there through conscious effort and daily decisions, through tiny struggles that result in long-term solutions. It has to be that way – for me and for everyone.
There is no other way.
So, what if I told you you could take a pill, do a dance, spin around and blink or rub a magic bottle of Pepsi to solve all your problems? What would you do? What would you think when you’re 51 and watching your daughter graduate? What would you tell her when she finishes college? What would you tell her children when they are sitting on your knee? You wouldn’t have a lot to say and you probably would not have grown enough to say it well, even if you did.
I’m not saying we should embrace our problems. I’m saying we should cherish the overcoming, the working through, the piece-by-piece, inch-by-inch, step-by-step progress we make toward solving them. Because that’s our legacy as people. That’s the story we tell. That’s the tissue that connects our humanity.
And it doesn’t come from a pill.