What you lack in talent can be made up with desire, hustle and giving 110 percent all the time.
- Don Zimmer (baseball player, coach)
Remember when it was fashionable to give 110%? Set aside your mathematical annoyances with that idiom. The fact is, there was a time when going above and beyond was the norm. And as Don Zimmer says, what we lack in talent can be overcome with effort. If there was ever a truer distillation of what it means to be an American, I doubt it.
Call it the Protestant Work Ethic, or American Exceptionalism, that’s just what is expected and what we do. It is our God given legacy. And with it we created amazing things during our two-and-a-half centuries of taking on big stuff. Good or bad we conquered the continent, created industry, built railroads, invented cool shit like planes and computers. We built giant damns, and canals. We conquered disease and shot humans to the moon and back. And don’t forget, we kicked major butt in World War II! We are a nation that gives 110%.
Or at least we were.
When the whole notion of the sequester emerged about a year and a half ago it seemed so remote in both time and probability that I, like probably most of us, never gave it much consideration. Now, with a day to go, it not only seems probable, but inevitable. And what will be the result? Oh, about 90%.
The feds will slice off 10%, or so, of most everything and we’ll just see what happens. Sure, there is plenty of hand-wringing on Capitol Hill and in the White House, but little real action. But let’s be fair. Can we really expect our elected officials to solve this complex fiscal challenge by giving 90%? Of course not! And we should cut them some slack. Give ‘em a break. After all, they work pretty hard the rest of the time raising all that money to get re-elected. Solving a national crises is hard work. It requires knowledge and skills and the ability to work and play nice with others. If not talent for those things, at least hustle and desire, as Don Zimmer would say. And should we have such lofty expectations of our leaders? Should we?
I think its time! Time for a national debate and an open dialogue. An open dialogue that gets to the heart of our problems as a people and of this great and noble experiment of democracy. It’s time to face our reality and destiny.
And that is: We just aren’t up to it anymore. There was a time when we gave 110%. When we rallied and took on big problems. But now we are tired. All those inventions and wars take their toll. And we are getting on in our years. We aren’t spry teens or young adults like we were a century ago. As a nation we are at middle age, if not a bit past. Our national knees are sore and we have hair growing out of our republic's ears. If you look at the other great democracies and empires we should consider ourselves lucky to have had a run of 250 years. Sure, there are the Romans, and the Venetians who had really long runs, but plenty others never lasted this long. The great colonial powers like Spain, Great Britain, and Portugal had only a couple or three centuries on top. Even the cradle of our Western Civilization, Hellenistic Greece, had a heyday that lasted not even 200 years. So why not be happy with our exceptional run? It was a great time we had. But now? Now maybe is the time for all good men and women to be satisfied that we can muster about 90%. Which is what our leaders seem to be able to muster.
There has been plenty written by smarter and better-educated people than I about the decline of our great nation. And I’m sure some will read this and think I’m just giving up. They say I am a quitter and that I have no faith in our ability to rise up. To that I’d say they are wrong! I am not a quitter and am not giving up. If I said I was a quitter it would be to say I am satisfied with defeat. And I’m not! At least about 90% not. So I am not giving up! I’m just starting to consider, perhaps, that maybe I’ll just give 90% too. It is, after all, our leaders we look to for guidance and inspiration. And if they are content with 90% then who am I to say otherwise.
And the more I think of it, the better I feel!
So starting Friday, I’m going to begin my own sequester. I’m just going to dial everything down from a 10 to a 9. Whatever it is that I do that I do all the way, I’m going to do most of the way. That should do it.
Since I drive about 10% over the speed limit, on average, this should be good. I’ll avoid most of the speed camera tickets I get. And I probably average a glass or two of wine (or scotch) per night. One less per week won’t kill me. I should cut back anyway. My boys probably won’t miss me the 10% I won’t spend with them. And Lori, well, hmmm, I’ll need to think out what 10% she’ll do without. But 10% fewer calories, less exercise, less work, less pay, less TV, less reading, less going to the bathroom. 10% less yard work and idle conversations. 10% of everything! This could be liberating!
At this point in my blog posts I typically try wrapping with some clever summary. Maybe some insight that I think you, dear reader, will enjoy. Perhaps even something you can take forward to help in some way. But, frankly, I think I’ve put about 90% of the effort I want to on this.