In the first year of his presidency, Ronald Reagan spent countless hours trying to persuade congressmen to approve a crucial sale of military planes to Saudi Arabia. By all accounts, it was a grueling effort that a took a personal toll, so when Congress voted (by a narrow margin) to approve the deal, Reagan turned to an aide and said “I feel like I’ve just crapped a pineapple.”
That’s pretty much describes my feelings all year with this blog. And just like anything you might expel from your bowels (pineapples or otherwise) I’m not sure if I’m proud of the results so much as glad that the year is over.
To recap: 365 days ago I vowed to become a Better Man by today. In my first post, I wrote about waking up Christmas morning to find the tires on my car slashed. It was the final insult in a year’s worth of indignities, and the parallels weren’t lost on me: my easy ride on the wheels of good fortune had been suddenly deflated by the ugly vicissitudes of life.
And so this blog was born, a chronicle of my efforts not only to reverse my fortunes, but to change for the better – to find the wisdom and fortitude to overcome my crises. I’d resolved to do this by taking on several laudable, hare-brained and occasionally dangerous projects, all designed to improve the quality of my character. In the process, I learned a few lessons:
LESSON #1: It’s Okay To Make Wildly Unrealistic Plans That You Fail to Achieve.
When Joseph Stalin ruled the Soviet Union, he laid out several Five Year Plans that came with virtually impossible economic targets the workers had to achieve. We’re talking crazy goals, like wheat production that required more farmland than physically existed in the entire country. When the workers failed to achieve their targets, Stalin made sure heads rolled…literally. That’s too bad, because in spite of the “failure” the Soviet Union still achieved phenomenal economic growth, outpacing even some capitalist countries. Cranky, homicidal Joe was so focussed on what didn’t happen that he couldn’t see the progress his country had made.
In my Better Man-ifesto, I came up with nine very ambitious projects, ones with high numbers for both artistic merit and technical difficulty. I did not stick the landing on most of them. Project “Do Me a Solid” was all about volunteering, yet the most I ever volunteered for was seconds at dinner. The God Project was another disaster – although I must admit my heart wasn’t in it. Having grown up going to church, suddenly going back felt a little like going to the fridge for the milk, finding it had gone stale, then putting it back thinking if I return later it might be good again. In all, I failed to complete ANY of the projects in their entirety, including the seemingly easy goal of being a Better Asshole (Project Ari Gold).
Now, it’d be easy to pull a Stalin and dwell my failures, but that would mean overlooking the unanticipated successes of this year. Take Project Renaissance Man (self-reliance and technical aptitude) – I didn’t pick up ANY of the skills I’d set out to learning. However, I’ve since compensated for it by discovering my inner Boy Scout – for example, I may not know how to fix my motorcycle, but now wherever I ride I carry a space blanket, canteen, and a survival knife in my saddle bags. That way if I break down on the highway, at least I won’t die of exposure, dehydration, or bear attacks. In fact, my house is now littered with how-to guides, and wherever I go I carry tools for most crises, even if I don’t know how to use them.