After twelve years and 500+ columns, this one’s my last. I’m disappointed. But not surprised. It’s no secret that the Internet has wounded print newspapers. For several years now, the writing has been on the wall. Make that on the screen.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The original goal was to syndicate this column. To take it national – and beyond. Like my Uncle Art (Buchwald) had. The point of the Prayer of Jabez is to “enlarge my border,” to have a growing influence, not a shrinking one.
The dream is to impact the world. Not spectacularly. That’s not realistic. Just with the kinds of things I’ve written about here: What it takes to live well. What it takes to be successful. What it takes to be extraordinary.
I know about these things, but not because I’m brilliant or wise. And certainly not because I’m living especially well, successfully or extraordinarily. But because, for over a quarter century, I’ve studied great lives. It started when I began wondering about my best all-around students. I wanted to know why they were so successful, kind, admired, well-liked and happy. I wanted to know why they were that way so I could teach my two daughters how to live magnificent lives, and so I could share “what it takes” with all my students.
Ironically, some of what I teach hasn’t worked out for me. The Earl Lloyd lesson for example. The first African-American to play in the NBA and former Detroit Pistons coach taught me that “It doesn’t matter where you go to college. If you’re good enough, we’ll find you.”
He was talking about finding potential NBA basketball players, but I teach that it applies way beyond sport. If you’re good enough at what you do, sooner or later, someone will figure it out, and you’ll be rewarded.
So the dilemma is either I don’t believe in the lesson or I accept that I’m not a good enough teacher and writer. I choose the latter. I’m not good enough. If I was, the paper would have found a way to keep me.
One positive is that unlike my past passions – basketball and martial arts – I can still get better at teaching and writing. So I’ll keep striving.
Another former NBA player, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, advised my students to “Make yourself indispensable. Then you can never be fired.” Great advice, yet, obviously, difficult to accomplish.
OK, enough sadness. I mean, even though this is a big deal to me, to the rest of the world it’s not even a blip of concern. Truthfully, it’s been a huge honor to have been hired as a professional writer. Anyone with a computer can write a blog. Very few are chosen by pros to write. Pros such as Steve Waterhouse, who edited, guided and advised me from the start. And Rick La Plante, my first editor, who helped me believe I could do this. And Rob Dennis, who was patient while putting up with my spelling and grammar flubs. I got better, though. Right Rob?
Mortally wounded by an assassin’s bullet, the great politician Huey Long’s last words were, “God, don’t let me die. I have so much left to do.”
I’m not dying, but I feel like Long did. I have so much left to do. I’m almost done with my third book, “Missing Pieces. Vital Lessons Our Schools Don’t Teach,” and you can still find me at my website, what-it-takes.com.