Gump, Bouchard and Lombardi

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith

POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 8, 2013

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"Victories are won in the hearts and minds of men.”
Vince Lombardi (Legendary Green Bay Packer Coach)

In the face of some real tragedy this summer, and some good stuff as well (all told, my father’s life and death falls into the latter category), I have been thinking a lot about 'meaning'. And I’m coming down more or less in the ‘Forest Gump’ camp. As in: You never know what you’re going to get. Or, perhaps: 'You get what you get.' I have been searching for patterns, logic, predictability and fairness in life; I can find nothing. Right now I'm thinking that Chaos Theory makes as good a starting point as any (trust me, this is an optimistic blog, eventually).

When I was growing up, EllisDon seemed to me to be both permanent and very important. But there was another construction company that opened the same year as EllisDon. Though we did not compete, I knew the company and watched it grow very large, and knew the family well. Then, in the recession of the early nineties the company suddenly disappeared, which was of course a tragedy. And I noticed something: In almost no time, almost everyone involved in or aware of the company made the necessary adjustments and got on with their lives. Gone. And not just gone, very quickly it was almost as if it had never been. And I suddenly understood that EllisDon was neither remotely permanent nor necessarily important at all. And I eventually realized that if you can embrace the whole of that reality - in the right way - then you are free.

But amid the freedom of all that uncertainty and impermanence, here’s another ‘90’s event and yes, I am going somewhere with this. Many of you will remember the 1995 Quebec referendum vote, which came within 1% (49.5% for sovereignty, 50.5% against) of dismembering Canada. What I recall clearly about that campaign is that for its first half, the sovereigntists were losing badly. Then Lucien Bouchard took control and single handedly, determinedly, and very nearly successfully turned it entirely around. The force of one person’s ambition and determination almost changed an entire country profoundly and irreversibly.

This blog is trying to be about building your own happiness and your contribution amid the chaos, but I realize great care is needed: Some people are placed in such difficult circumstances that both happiness and success are out of reach for them. And there is no important part of life that is anything but a struggle, including and especially happiness.

But the vast majority of us are not in that situation. And I guess that my philosophy is that the freedom created by the very chaos, unfairness and challenges surrounding us delivers a huge opportunity for both achievement and enjoyment. Life is what you make it, of course, and it’s also all we have. That is the reality that must be embraced with Vince Lombardi-like passion.

Thank you for indulging me. Be well, and be happy.