The meaning of life… in few words.

While watching the political conventions, I was struck by the obvious need to establish a key sound-bite. Something like a tagline that can say a lot with very little. Hillary came up with “When there is no glass ceiling, the sky’s the limit”. Says a ton with few words.

I love it when these bits of sage wisdom have multiple meanings. It’s like an astrological reading… read whatever you want into it, and it’s always right.

When I lived on my boat in a marina, my best friend lived in the boat next to me. On his 30th birthday (over 35 years ago), after many tots of Pussers Rum, he was asked what piece of advice he could give that reflected his wisdom gained from those 30 years of life. He started with “hmmmmmm”, but quickly followed with “Always come in slow”. As sailors with full-keel boats that don’t manuever all that well, we all understood that when coming in for a landing at a dock, it’s best to come in slow as to avoid an incident involving major repairs to both the dock and your boat. But wait a sec… is that all it means? You don’t get married on your first date. You don’t buy the first house you look at. You think twice about buying a bridge to Brooklyn. I have repeated this advice many, many times, but rarely to sailors. Do your homework, analyze your options, but don’t get analysis paralysis. You can come in, but maybe consider doing it slowly. And it wouldn’t hurt having a strong reverse gear.

A cycling friend of mine, at 70 years old, rode his bike from Seattle to Alaska… camping along the way. He is an amazing cyclist with a great Brit sense of humour. On a recent ride together, he was asked “How can you ride so well at your age?”. He didn’t pause with a hmmmmm. “Coast when you can, pedal when you must”. Sounds simple enough. For an endurance cyclist you get it right away: conserve energy but keep up your speed. But should that advice be just for cycling? When things are going well, are you tempted to tinker with it? Or ride with it for a spell and enjoy the synchronicity of all that makes it right. When things are taking a wrong turn, do you say “oh well”? Or do you buckle down, button up, and fix it?

I don’t have a “meaning of life” of my own. With mentors like this I haven’t had to. I apply their words to my life every day. They have never let me down.