Choose Change

I believe in reincarnation!

But not in the Hindu sense. In my last post, I discussed the miracle of birth in connection with the birth of our fifteenth grandchild. Today I want to consider the miracle of rebirth, which, in my mind, is more important than birth. Or, as Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Some of my grandchildren have T-shirts that say, “Choose Kind.” That expression comes from the movie, Wonder, where Mr. Browne teaches his students about the precept (sayings to live by) first stated by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer: “When choosing between being right and being kind, choose kind.” One of my favorite precepts is: Do not fear change, for it is an unchangeable law of progress.

I recently retired from 39 years of practicing law. In those 39 years, I changed jobs eight times and moved 12 times. It really wasn’t because I had a hard time keeping a job. Early on, I had adopted this philosophy in connection with new job offers that came my way: everything else being equal, always choose the new job. Why? Because it is through change that we change – or at least have the opportunity to. But change just for change’s sake, is not progress any more than noise is music.

So with my retirement, comes change. We moved into a new home to be closer to most of our kids and grandkids. Moving has been hard, but in the long run, the move will be the easy part. The harder part will be how we handle a new neighborhood, and worse, a new lifestyle. I worry about making new friends, I consider whether I should attend a new church congregation, and I question how to spend my new free time. (I know, “first world” problems.) In short, will I take this opportunity to make some new music in my life, or will I just be making noise? Will I actually experience a rebirth of sorts, or will I be Exhibit A to what Tolstoy once said: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Fortunately, I find some inspiration in movies. I love films where the main characters reinvent themselves for the better: Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (or Scrooge or Scrooged or Ebenezer), Frank Abagnale in Catch Me if You Can, or Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.

Of course, the first thing we must do to make a positive change is to get off our butts and do something, as illustrated by this clip from Into the Wild[i]:

But we never want to confuse motion with accomplishment. Some people (as well as many organizations) experience paralysis through analysis. We are busy, busy, busy analyzing and reanalyzing a situation, but we never decide to do anything about it. So let’s get in motion first, and then worry about whether our movement is accomplishing anything.

Sometimes we don’t know what to do to change ourselves. An easy way to start is to decide the kind of person we want to become and act as that kind of person would. Or we fake it until we make it. It’s a cute little saying, but it actually works.

If we tell ourselves we are a particular type of person and start acting that way, we begin to fool others, and more importantly, ourselves. One of the best examples of this is the classic film, My Fair Lady[ii], where Henry Higgins determines he can turn even the poorest, most backward Cockney flower girl into a princess merely by teaching her how to speak, dress and act correctly. Here is a short clip where Higgins shows off his accomplishment:

If you are old, like me, you’ll remember what Michael Jordan (and Nike) taught us back in the 80’s. If you wanted to be a good basketball player, all you had to do was wear Nike Air Jordan’s. The ads showed Michael Jordan making some impressive play and then told us repeatedly, “It’s gotta be the shoes.” Although many of us bought Air Jordan’s, few of us bought the idea that shoes alone would make us great basketball players. But we still wanted to “be like Mike.” And who is to say that a new pair of shoes won’t do wonders for our self-image? I admit I’m a shoe guy. As a poster I once read says, “Life is short; buy the shoes.”

This talk of shoes reminds me of one of my all-time favorite films, The Shawshank Redemption.[iii] First, here are Andy and Red talking about what they would do if they could change their circumstances:

Andy then decides to “get busy living” by doing something to change:

Like Andy, sometimes we must go through a figurative half-mile of sewer before we can improve. Habits are hard to break; new character traits are hard to build.

Sometimes, the change we hope for remains out of reach. We don’t quite reach our goals. In those situations, we need to remember that often the journey is more important than the end result. In those situations, please remember these inspiring words from Coach Carter[iv]:

Remember that someday is not a day of the week. Let’s choose change today.

[i] Into the Wild

  • Production Company: Paramount Vantage and Art Linson Productions
  • Director: Sean Penn
  • Screenwriter: Sean Penn (based on the book by John Krakauer
  • Starring: Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, and Catherine Keneer
  • Release date: October 19, 2007

[ii] My Fair Lady

  • Production Company: Warner Bros.
  • Director: George Cuker
  • Screenwriter: Alan Jay Lerner (based on the play by George Bernard Shaw)
  • Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, and Stanley Holloway
  • Release date: December 25, 1964

[iii] The Shawshank Redemption

  • Production Company: Castle Rock Entertainment
  • Director: Frank Darabout
  • Screenwriter: Frank Darabout (based on the short story by Stephen King)
  • Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, and Bob Gunton
  • Release date: October 14, 1994

[iv] Coach Carter

  • Production Company: Coah Carter, MTV Productions, and Expedition Films
  • Director: Thomas Carter
  • Screenwriter: Mark Schwahn and John Gatins
  • Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Rick Gonzalez and Robert Ri’chard
  • Release date: January 14, 2005



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