Voice From The Bullpen: Another Year Goes By

“Tennessee” Ernie Ford was the original artist of a song that became a big hit for him when it came out in 1955. It was called “Sixteen Tons.” The chorus of the song included the lyrics:

“You load 16 tons, what to you get? Another day older and deeper in debt

Saint Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store.”

As each year comes to a close, and we have grown another year older, some of us might have become a little deeper in debt, and some may still feel like they can’t stop working because they feel like they owe their souls to the company store, so to speak. Some may also get a little sad about the year that has passed and, maybe be a little down about the year that will begin anew in a few days.

I was never an accountant, but much more recently in my life I have tried ending each year looking at things as if I had a mental ledger sheet in front of me with a pencil in hand. I mentally write down the events of the year on the “debit” side, or the “credit” side, of the ledger depending on whatever I felt they were. I do this at the end of the year because when things that happen that may cost me money, or inconvenience me in some way, I often get wrapped up in the cost and inconvenience and at the point of occurrence, I immediately deem it to be a bad year. By waiting until the end of the year, hopefully, I have gotten over the anger or frustration of the happening, and can look at the overall year, and not just focus on just one thing, but, instead, evaluate the entire picture.

2018 was an up and down year, it was 12 months of chills and spills, and it was definitely a roller coast ride. It was exciting, it was frustrating, it was happy, and it was sad (somedays all of that at the same event). Looking at those descriptions, they who professed, “Variety is the spice of life,” were oh so right.

One of my favorite movies, originally released in 1980, was “Oh God, Book II,” (actually I enjoyed the entire series of “Oh God” movies) which starred, George Burns. Burns played the Almighty and was trying to run a campaign to get people thinking about God. He decided to put the campaign in the hands of a little girl named Tracy. In one of the scenes, Tracy asked God why He made bad things happen to people and God replied, “I know this sounds like a cop-out, Tracy, but there’s nothing I can do about pain and suffering. It’s built into the system.” He later went on to say, “…my problem was I could never figure out how to build anything with just one side to it.” He, then, questioned her by asking, “You ever see a front without a back?, a top without a bottom?, an up without a down?” After receiving individual responses of “No” after each question, God concluded by saying, “OK. Then there can’t be good without bad, life without death, pleasure without pain. That’s the way it is. If I take sad away, happy has to go with it.” ()

In my coaching experiences, I learned to not just focus on who wasn’t at practice or at a game, for whatever reason, because it would diminish the importance and value of those who were there. I try to use that mentality in many of my experiences, usually after my elatedness, my excitement, my frustration, or my anger are out of my system, to decide if it was a good experience, or at this time of year, a good year or not. Focusing on what might be bad may blind us of what might still be good in a particular situation. That’s where my ledger sheet comes into play.

In any situation, in any experience, in all of life’s little, and big challenges, when we try to throw out the bad, some of the good ends up going with it. In most good situations, there is sure to be some bad, and in most bad situations, there’s sure to be some good.

When Sally and I first went house hunting after a few years of marriage, we decided to go to places we wanted to see, separately. We felt that if we went together one of us, or the other, may have influenced each other with big smiles, facial gestures, or other types of expressions, and the other might have said it would be okay, but maybe deep down it really wouldn’t be okay. We agreed to take a sheet of paper, draw a vertical line down the middle, and make a list of pros and cons of the house we were visiting, and then sit down with each other afterward and compare the lists. As we did this, we found that each house had both pros and cons, so we looked at the ones that had way more pros than cons on the combined lists, and narrow it down that way.

So, as I checked my ledger of 2018, and I realized that there were some things that made me really mad when they happened, but after time passed and with Sally and the kids’ reassurance that things were going to be alright, I was able to put those things on the “bad” side of my mental ledger sheet, but I still came up with more pros. Then, as I looked at both sides of the list, I could unequivocally say that 2018 was definitely a very good year for me. Trust me, if I can look at things after the emotional “smoke” has cleared, and after I have calmed down, which sometimes is a miracle in itself, then anyone can look at things rationally and make a fair evaluation of a situation, and/or a year that has passed.

And, if you think that this past year only made you one year older and a little bit more in debt, then put those items on your “con” side of your ledger sheet, but add to the “pro” side that at least you were around for that one more year (and hopefully will be for many more), and that even though you might be a little deeper in debt, be glad it was just a little deeper and not a whole lot more.

And as the sayings go, “Keep counting your blessings,” “Look on the bright side,” and “Accentuate the positive.” It’s hard to do. Trust me, I know, but when it’s all said and done, it’ll give you a much clearer evaluation of any situation. Hope your 2018 turned out to be a pretty good year for you.

Happy 2019 to all!