As I’ve mentioned a few times on The Simple Dollar, one of the few heroes I have is John Wooden, the former basketball coach at UCLA in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. I could tell you many things about him, but
A few years ago, I wrote about how John Wooden had taught me a lot about personal finance and over the years, I’ve read his books and many of interviews he’d given. Last year, I wrote anothe article about Wooden entitled Make Each Day Your Masterpiece, in which I looked a bit more deeply at one of the big ideas that Wooden talked about.
Simply put, the idea of making each day your masterpiece means that you try to live each day in a way that I would be content having myself judged upon. In other words, would I be happy if, at the end of my life, my entire personhood was judged on the kind of person I was today? It’s a call to do your best each and every day.
A few days ago, I conducted a written interview with a small newspaper (I’m not even sure if the article will be online anywhere – it’s not as of yet). One of the questions the interviewer asked of me was about that “masterpiece” article. How exactly do I make each day my masterpiece?
I offered a few ideas, but this question resided in my head since then and I’ve had a chance to really flesh them out.
First of all, I don’t strive for perfection on any day. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and even the greatest masterpieces in the world aren’t perfect. I strive instead for a day that, on the whole, has much more good in it than bad in it.
I tell the people that I love the most that I do love them, and, if possible, I do something with them to express that love. I’ll kiss my wife and hold her close. I’ll play peek-a-boo with my infant son. I’ll play some variation of tag with my oldest child. I’ll run across the yard and sweep my daughter into my arms in a giant hug. I’ll give my parents a phone call and tell them something that will warm their hearts. It’s these little strokes, done over and over again in alignment with each other, that build a lasting relationship.
I laugh. Any day with laughter is a good day.
I read a book. Sometimes, I’ll read something very deep that makes me think. At other times, I’ll read the fluffiest page-turning science fiction or fantasy you’ll ever see. In either case, the process of turning the words on the page into things in my mind fills me in a way nothing else does.
I learn something new and practice something old. If my mind’s not working and growing, it’s getting old and stale.
I go out of my way for someone. Each day, I try to perform some “random act of kindness,” whether it’s known by a lot of people or by no one else at all. I’ll write a long response to a reader in need and send it to just them. I’ll help an old lady at the grocery store with her shopping. I’ll climb onto someone’s roof to retrieve a tree limb or a Frisbee.
I shoot for as many positive interactions as I can. I’ll talk to people who seem to feel out of place. I’ll raise my hand and get a conversation started. I’ll compliment random people on the street. The more good will I can add to the world, the better.
If I can do all of those things, then that day is a masterpiece. What else can I really ask for out of life?