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Jewish World Review June 1, 2005 / 15 Iyar 5765

Steve Young

Steve Young
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I donít know nothiní — thank goodness | Some years ago my stepfather, Reds, had a heart attack. Our family grieved and my mother, who had lost one husband to cancer years before, said that if there was a G-d , he didn't know what he was doing. During Red's operation, the surgeon found a vessel behind the heart that was clogged. A clog that would have killed Reds if he didn't have the good fortune of a heart attack.

Is there any mortal out there who might venture the thought that a heart attack would be a good thing, especially for a family member? Of course not, but that's exactly the point. We don't know nothin'. At least, our fortune telling is not lock step with actuality.

So is this going to be one of those theological, trust in G-d, articles? Could be, but it's more about me and I'm not a very good example of how to live your religion. This is about faith. Faith in what I call the "I Don't Know What The Hell Is Going To Happen So What The Hell Am I Wasting My Time Thinking It's Going To Turn Out Bad" philosophy. In short, it really comes down to what the great thinker, Alfred E. Newman of Mad Magazine, would expound. His "What Me Worry?" notion doesn't seem all too...mad.

A lot of it has much to do with how we look at adversities. Do we take them as overwhelming obstacles or exciting challenges? Many point at their inopportune experiences as evidence that it doesn't pay to think any other way but negative because that's the way it'll turn out. Ah, the horrific self-fulfilling prophecy. But even if we don't have knight on horse daring, it doesn't mean we have to suffer. We only need give up control of the uncontrollable. In other words, stop trying to guess the outcome.

Because, so much of it is a guess. Especially if you figure it's going to turn out bad.

We get fired. Does it mean we'll not be able to pay the rent, or does it mean we're now available for a better job or new career? Who knows? Our job is not to assume, but to persevere, take action, and see where life takes us. Goes for relationships. Same with sports.

Baseball seems to carry a good number of strong life metaphors. My ten year old son, Casey, who plays Little League baseball, isn't a big fan of hard work paying off because all the changes he's made to his batting stance and his pitching style seem to have only hurt him. At bat, more strikeouts. On the mound, less control. In a recent game he struck out in his first at bat, and immediately, the dread of the nightmare remainder of the game enveloped him and he asked to go home due to sudden stomach and head aches. A pretty common attack after a bad first inning. All the talk of Babe Ruth's record strikeouts or Michael Jordan being cut from his junior high basketball team never helped. Still, I wasn't taking him home. He stayed in the game and the next time up...a base hit through the middle. Next time a walk, then a triple.

Four stolen bases and two Best of ESPN fielding plays and, on the mound, struck out the side to close the game. He ended up calling it the best game of his life.

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He could have quit in the first inning. He wanted to, but he didn't. He was miserable for how he thought the game would go. He was wrong and he wasted all that misery. Fact is, he didn't know nothin'.

That's what I'm talking about. We should stop wasting precious time being miserable or seeing only doom and gloom no matter how dire the possibilities. It hurts the effort. Makes it harder to persevere.

As I began with the heart attack story, let me end with another story from my family's heart. Two weeks ago my seven month granddaughter had her second open heart surgery. The first one did not keep her from having this procedure as we had wished. Now we hoped it wouldn't be necessary for the open heart surgery and that she could have gotten away with a much simpler procedure. The doctors said they'd have to open her up and as we waited for her to come out of the more serious surgery and my son and his wife sweated it out, with thoughts of the worse always ready to be thought, I tried to heed what is easier to say than do. I repeated over and over that I didn't know how this would come out, but it would work out for the best. It helped make me feel a bit more hopeful and was able to more fully partake in joking efforts to distract the parents. After four hours the surgeon came out to tell us that while he was in the tiny heart cavity, he found a growth that he would not have seen if they didn't perform this more dangerous, more severe surgery. It may very well end up giving Rachel a chance at a normal life. A result none of us had thought would come out of this dreaded four hours.

This isn't to say the next time things seem bad, have a party. But if things look bleak, try taking contrary action. What do you have to lose? After all, you could be wrong.


JWR contributor Steve Young is author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful: Mistakes, Adversity, Failure and Other Stepping Stones to Success," and can be heard on Los Angeles's KTLK AM 1150, Saturdays 1-4 PM. Blog at Comment by clicking here.


© 2004, Steve Young