I stopped to think and forgot to start again (bill_schubert) wrote,
I stopped to think and forgot to start again

The lead dog

At some point, probably after college, my father gave me a desktop sign, a placard, that said “If you’re not the lead dog, the scenery never changes” .  I don't remember the scene of his giving it to me nor my reaction but it rattled my cage more than I can say and reverberated through my life, the echoes becoming stronger and more destructive over the years.  I attribute the best of intentions to him.  He never forced anything on me, never said “You WILL be a… whatever.”  I’m thinking he didn’t like me being a theater major but never really showed his disappointment.  And his message was always “I just want you to succeed at whatever you do”.

Weirdly enough I think I would have been better off with a declaration of what I needed to do, what goals I needed to accomplish.  I never have had any direction but have just wandered through life taking advantage of my white maleness to be safe and secure.  I’ve got this weird talent or personality trait, I guess, that makes a room of people look at me for direction and much like Ron White I know I have the right to be silent, I just don’t have the ability.  So it becomes difficult for me to not end up in charge of a group if I’m in it (I no longer join anything mostly for that reason).  I also have strong enough opinions that my patience for the leadership of others is thin so they need to step up if they are going to be in charge.  This is a direct inheritance from my father.  My favorite quote from “Search for Excellence” was attributed to the CEO of Cadbury Chocolate, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” which was at the beginning of a chapter named “A propensity for action.” 

Huge digression there from what I was going to say about not being the lead dog.  Unfortunately what I took from the placard my father gave me is that if you are not the lead dog you are a failure.  Which means that I’ve spent this life, during which I was nearly always in the top third of everything I did, sometimes very near the top, as a failure.  The scenery never changes.  Not what he meant to convey but the dark side of my ID leached poison tendrils of that failure message throughout my entire life.

Which leads to this article I ran across a few weeks ago (it has taken me that long to get my brain around it):  https://nosidebar.com/mediocre-life/

This is every bit shattering to me as was the lead dog message.  As evidence to that:  the fact that I am yet unable to send it to my two sons.  It is something they should hear, something they should know but I feel like I am breaking some rule of my life to send them that message.  To send them a message that it is OK to be less than the lead dog. 

I can hardly even think of the concept that mediocrity is an acceptable goal, an acceptable life to live, an acceptable legacy.  The pit of my stomach drops if I really think about that.  I have a physical reaction to it.

Maybe a work in progress here.  I was looking for something to do in the last third or whatever of my life.  Maybe I’ll aspire to mediocrity.

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