Robert Fulghum made a lot of money telling you what you already know. Which makes him a wise man in multiple ways.
You may remember him as the author of “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” — the bestseller that lauded the simple truths and niceties of life through a series of essays. The title reflected his belief that by the time you completed your first year in school you had the proper foundation for succeeding in life.
His take wasn’t all that novel, but it was another reminder that we can always use a reminder. Take any seminar you’ve attended, or church for that matter. They don’t always include groundbreaking stuff, but they do usually feature information that you’ve forgotten, or more likely, have gotten lax with. And that reminder can make you better personally and spiritually. It’s getting back to the basics, a theme Fulghum illustrated well.
With that said, my book of essays would be called “All I Really Need To Know A Coach Told Me.” In my former life as both an athlete and sports writer, I spent a lot of time listening to coaches spout cliches, specifically about the importance of taking things as they come. While I dismissed them at the time, they ring a lot truer these days.
“Take it one game at a time.”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself.”
“Let’s be 1-0 every week.”
“Our next game is our most important.”
When you’re a kid and ready to win the state championship during the first practice of the season, those words are hard to listen to. The same goes for when you are writer looking for a new angle for your story. In both instances, the words don’t fit what you want to hear so oftentimes you tune them out.
But like a professional attending a conference, the simple words are sometimes the most impactful. And the things you already know are exactly the ones of which you need to be reminded. As you get older, those cliches, trite as they are, make more and more sense.
We make fun of coaches for repeating those lines as mantras. Yet they know two things:
Repetition is the best way to ingrain behavoir.
They are correct.
We all get ahead of ourselves, it’s practically the religion of America. We start Monday already planning for Friday. We go on vacation thinking about the awfulness of the last day while forgetting to enjoy the middle. We hit a dry spell and decide we’ll never succeed again. We hit a rainy patch and figure the sun has ceased to be.
The world may not have been built in a day, but we can’t figure out why not. So we run ourselves ragged, chasing tomorrow instead of enjoying today. We worry about next month (and the month after that) instead of making the best of this one. We tend to get in our own way.
But not your coach. He tells you not only to take it one game at a time, but one play at a time. He knows that if you are looking ahead to the big game in three weeks you’ll lose focus on the games before it. He knows, cliche as it is, that you can’t win all your games until you win the first.
And he understands, just like Fulghum, that most of what you really need to know you’ve already learned. You just need to hear it again. And again. And again.
Email Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.