“You can’t always get what you want,
And if you try sometime,
You find you get what you need.”
Recorded by the ROLLING STONES
on November 16 & 17, 1968. First released on Let It Bleed in 1969.
I find proof of a merciful Cosmos in that most of my bad high school memories have pretty much now faded to black. But on the up-side, there were some genuine highlights. I am still proud of making the tennis team my freshman year. I learned to type and I aced Geometry with Mr. Wacholz.
While I despised sitting in algaebra (and yes, that’s what we brilliant sophomores said mermaids wore), it was different in Geometery.
A big reason for my A was having a gifted teacher who seemed to make the subject come alive for me. Mr. Wacholz was a passionate math geek who loved what he did and it was contagious.
I still remember him wearing our lessons on his head in his valiant attempt to catch but a moment of our fleeting pubescent attention. There were days when he came to class wearing his yellow Triangle hat, or the blue Cube cap or my personal favorite, the purple Parallelogram.
But there was a dark side to Mr. Wacholz. Once he got us laughing, he would slip some valuable learning into our heads. I told you he was slick. It was on just such an afternoon when he said something I’ve never forgotten: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” While it seems obvious that what he said was true, what he said fundamentally changed how I looked at the world.
Remember when you were a little kid and someone would ask you, ‘What you want to be when you grow up?‘ What did you say? Do you remember?
If you are one of the really lucky ones, it may have worked out. You may actually be a fireman or a nurse. But I’m suspecting there are more of us who, like me, had lives that didn’t follow a straight line.
Looking back, there’s no way I could have predicted my life’s unexpected twists, dips and turns. But with the benefit of living long enough, now I know that’s the way it is – and has always been. Life has a way of coming at you fast. But I also know (now) that getting anywhere worth going to in this world is never quick or effortless. And unless it’s a bad comedy act, it does not involve straight lines. So OK, if we have points in our lives – both high and low – where is the straight line?
For me, the straight line running through all my curves has become my sense of Purpose. Purpose is versatile. It can be a light house to some and a compass for others. I’ve even heard described Purpose as living in the still small voice that knows when we need to act (or be quiet). And all of those versions of Purpose make sense to me. Things all snapped into place when I truly understood my Purpose was to be of Service in the life I had. If I left people better than they were before I found them, then I’d fulfilled my Purpose. Very little makes me happier. Not much fuels me better.
But Purpose isn’t the popular kid with everyone. One place our Purpose can get sucked into quicksand is our comfort zone. And before you go all hot and bothered on me, I agree; we all need places or people with whom we feel safe…that’s not it. I’m referring to the kind of comfort zone that seduces me into reaching for the third piece of pizza when all I’ve been talking about is wanting to lose just a little more weight. I’ve been at 230 for months. I want to get down to 215 or so. Yet, I continue to eat home-made bread while nominating pasta as my national treasure. My actions rat me out. So despite what I say, I am clearly comfortable trading them for not losing my last 10 or 15 pounds. In the words of my mature side, ‘I don’t wanna’. Inspiring isn’t it.
So even though I know how ‘comfort zone’ works, it caught me in a new way in the first few weeks after I lost my job.
I knew I needed to find work – quick. And I was really good at working out my plan of attack. Few could touch my discipline when it came to searching for work – resumes, mission statements, search agents, job boards – I was doing all of it – for hours and hours at a time and all of it was in front of my PC screen.
In retrospect, I understand my knee-jerk call-to-arms.
My back was up against the wall.
Never leaving my computer screen for hours at a time and with money getting tighter and tighter, I rationalized to myself that I was being strategic. ‘I’m not wasting fuel. I am maximizing my coverage with a minimum of effort. I am applying for two or three jobs every day. The laws of probability are certainly going to fall in my favor.’
But it didn’t happen.
As those first days turned into Week 2 and then Week 3, the auto-generated computer responses began returning to my in-box like legions of electronic carrier pigeons.
“We have carefully reviewed your qualifications and while impressive, we’ve made another choice that more closely fits our requirements. Wishing you success in your job search, we will keep your resume on file for one-year in case something [even a moron like] you can do comes up”.
My spirit was pretty bullet proof at first, but as time went on, I started flashing back on childhood when my immediate family reminded me – at every opportunity, that I was a loser. In the here-and-now, when I could least afford it, I could feel myself tipping into a tailspin. Silent and undetected, I had allowed myself to retreat to my fort – my desk and the computer – places where I felt comfortable at a time when not much else in my life felt that way.
ADJECTIVE BECOMES VERB
A lot of things have changed since childhood. The big two are 1) I reclaimed my self through 2) falling in love with someone who loved me too.
And while that may have the makings of a greeting card, it ‘don’t’. My better half is a man of fierce convictions to living in a S*][T free zone. No longer able to watch me headed for the edge of the cliff, he took it upon himself to conduct a one-man intervention.
There was no shouting match or world heavy-weight bout. All he did was challenge me to do one thing. “Get out from behind the computer screen. Go talk to some recruiters…go knock on some doors…do something besides sitting there all day. Besides, the sound of all that typing is driving me nuts. Stop it.
I’d allowed my objective (getting hired) to be sabotaged by my comfort zone and all my rationalizations about being more effective behind the screen. I felt like I had just snapped out of a coma. I knew what to do.
I committed to visiting ten new recruiters or staffing agencies per week. I’d research them, pick a day or two for the trip and then plot out my travel path on MapQuest. Stop 1, Stop 2, Stop 3 and I’d spend the day working a particular part of Chicagoland. I’d just show up in the recruiters lobby and go from there. No fear…because now, I was guided by my Purpose and it fueled my direct action to fulfill it.
Many times, a 20-something would smugly school me “OMG. We don’t take walk-ins. You’ll need to go to our website”. I loved it. ‘Thanks young one, but I’ve been there, done that.’ While I kept my comment to myself, I didn’t let Buffy’s gate keeping deter me in one bit. I just moved on because I knew I still had other places to go and people to meet. I was operating with conviction to my Purpose.
Without exception, each road trip day had at least one business where the receptionist was on break and I’d end up having a great conversation with a senior manager or someone even higher. For having demonstrated my own sense of Purpose by being in their lobby, I found myself sitting across the table from them in their office. Did it work? It’s happening. With some 40 or so business cards newly collected, I’ve ID’d who the pro’s are that are with me in helping me fulfill my Purpose. They’re talking to their colleagues…”There was this guy who stopped in the office the other day…”
It feels good to have retaken my wheel. My phone is ringing and quality interviews are lining up.
I get it. The best way out of my comfort zone is a straight line. If Rick hadn’t punted, I would have never met so many top-flight people in the last five-weeks. Both my attitude and morale have returned to their normal battle strength.
So you see, not only is Purpose the straight line to keep our bearings as we navigate through the curves, it is also the juice that fires up our engines to do something different in order to get something different.
MORAL OF THE STORY
If your life is like mine and filled with lots of twists, turns and road blocks? Excellent. Seems reason enough to throw a party. Why?
It is our sense of Purpose, our determination to keep our eye on a prize even when we’re deep in the Valley of the Shadow that will also ground our celebration of gratitude when we do reach a mountain top.
Do you want to lose weight? Put down the pizza and start walking.
Do you want to learn how to paint? Get some paint and pick up a brush.
Do you wanna be a NASCAR driver? Get a car and learn to drive.
Or do you want to be a singer? Then start by opening your mouth and let it out.
Mick Jagger may be the smartest man on the planet. He understood the simple Truth that Life will not give him everything he wants. But if he tried, he might be able to sell a few records and dance across the stage in the process. I’d say he’s probably going to be a big star someday (duh!).
Redefine your Purpose this week. Or if you’ve already got one, energize it. We do that and we unlock our own music and get what we need.
A fun fact along with Attributions and Photo Credits:
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was first released on the Let It Bleed album in 1969. What many Stones fans may not know was how Brian Jones ran into Al Kooper outside the studio during a break in the recording and invited him in to play on the track. Kooper became a main contributor to the song, whereas Jones didn’t play on the cut.
Lead Vocals: Mick Jagger Acoustic & Electric Guitars: Keith Richards
Maracas & Congas: Rocky Dijon Bass: Bill Wyman French Horn: Al Kooper
Piano & Organ: Al Kooper Drums: Jimmy Miller Choir: London Bach Choir
Background Vocals: Madeline Bell, Nanette Newman, Doris Troy &
the London Bach Choir.
Early photo of Sir Michael Philip Jagger: http://www.mickjagger.com/ Recorded on November 16 & 17, 1968. Pythagorean Theorem: http://0.tqn.com/d/math/1/5/e/D/pythagoreantheorem.gif; Curve with straight line: http://www.lecture-notes.co.uk/susskind/classical-mechanics/lecture-2/shortest-distance-between-two-points/ Lighthouse: http://www.lighthouseinn-ct.com/; Quicksand: http://wow.gm/africa/article/2008/1/10/how-quicksand-works; Reality Check: http://www.squidoo.com/reality-check; Church Bells Ringing: http://slu15.wordpress.com/subjects/english/2010-gems/language/poem-analysis/ring-out-wild-bells-by-alfred-lord-tennyson/; Mick Jagger Dancing (Courtesy of UPI): http://www.askmen.com/top_10/celebrity_200/226_top_10_list.html
– ## –