Tag Archive | "role models"

Limitless Life

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Fosbury Flop

Life is replete with obstacles, some physical, but many more psychological.  These barriers restrain us geographically, economically, socially, spiritually, and in others ways that, perhaps, we do not even perceive.  Some obstacles are societal or cultural in nature – the result of a general consensus of thought; others are imposed by individuals and impact only that person and those in his or her immediate sphere of influence.

 

Prior to May 6, 1954, it was generally believed that no one could run a mile in less than four minutes.  On that afternoon at Iffley Road Track at Oxford University in England, Roger Bannister belied that consensus of thought – becoming the first man to run a sub-four-minute mile.  Only two years old at the time of Bannister’s achievement, New Zealander John Walker shattered the 3 minute 50 second mile mark twenty-two years later and ran 129 sub-four-minute miles in his running career.  American Steve Scott has 136 sub-four-minute miles to his credit.

 

In the 1960’s, American athlete Dick Fosbury developed and perfected a technique used in the high jump track and field event.  At the 1968 Olympic Games, he stunned the world, employing his technique, dubbed the “Fosbury Flop,” to win a Gold Medal in the high jump.  After his Olympic performance, his technique rapidly became the dominant style in the sport and remains so to this day.

 

Roger Bannister, Dick Fosbury, and others like them are modern-era pioneers, venturing into realms previously untraversed, breaking barriers and expanding the limits of human accomplishment.  While their achievements were personal in nature, they opened new opportunities for others by demonstrating the possibilities.  And so, not merely in athletics but in medicine, science, technology, philosophy, and every avenue of human endeavor, a breakthrough by one person opens the flood gates to achievements by many.

 

In point of fact, every obstacle – no matter how seemingly insignificant – that each one of us surmounts in our lifetimes benefits both ourselves and others.  When we overcome a fear, learn a new skill, or elevate our consciousness, we demonstrate a new ability.  Then, others – observing and recognizing our demonstrations – aspire to such demonstration themselves and realize their own potential in that particular area as well as other areas of life.

 

Without demonstration or role models in our lives, we can easily fall prey to our doubts and fears.  Doubt and fear inform us that we are incapable of attaining our aspirations, or that our goals themselves are impossible.  The end result is that we each create our own barriers to achievement of our dreams and more fulfilling, meaningful lives. 

 

When, however, we witness others like ourselves, who conquer their doubts and achieve their goals, we realize that we are capable of the same.  For that reason, the first college or professional school graduate within a family often unlocks the potential of his younger siblings or relatives.

 

How often do we observe children who grow up and “follow in the footsteps” of their parents? Achievement begets achievement and likewise the converse.  Most of us are not trailblazers; we require the demonstration of others whom we know to prove to us our own capabilities.  Yet, if we only realized the hidden reserve of power within each of us, we need not await a demonstration by another.

 

We can, each one of us, move mountains both figuratively and literally – if we realize it.  Should we tap into our inner reservoirs and achieve that which seemed difficult or impossible to us, we will surely benefit both ourselves and others – perhaps, the whole of mankind.  Even a flop can move others to succeed.

Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?

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Joe DiMaggio

The Simon and Garfunkel song “Mrs. Robinson,” popularized in the satirical, coming-of-age comedy The Graduate, depicts the experiences of a woman undergoing rehabilitation for alcohol dependency at some type of institution.  In 1967, the year of the film’s release, that institution was probably some type of psychiatric facility, likely one run by a religious order (from the references in the song to “Jesus”).  Among the questions and thoughts pondered in the lyrics is the reference to Joe DiMaggio found in the title of this article.  In the 60’s, as is true today, we desperately needed heroes.

 

Joe DiMaggio, known as “Joltin’ Joe” and “the Yankee Clipper,” is considered one of the all-time greats in the history of Major League Baseball.  Fiercely competitive, he nonetheless projected a gentlemanly demeanor and became a role model and champion to a generation of boys and young men.  The eighth of nine children born to Sicilian immigrants, the classy, always impeccably dressed DiMaggio maintained a positive public persona his entire life, despite a highly-publicized personal life including marriages to and subsequent divorces from actresses Dorothy Arnold and Marilyn Monroe.

 

DiMaggio’s behavior and demeanor stand in sharp contrast to that of the preponderance of athletes and other public figures today.  More often than not beset by behavioral and substance abuse problems, those in the modern limelight are, just as was Joe, role models.  Unlike him, however, they are models of the negative, examples of how not to comport oneself.

 

As if in an alternative universe, these anti-Joe’s flaunt their attitudes and behaviors for the viewing public to applaud.  Unfortunately, not everyone witnessing this spectacle understands that, absent the peculiar talents of these personalities, emulation of their manners and actions will not be particularly beneficial to them as they navigate the paths of their own lives.

 

If you have ever considered the reason for the dearth of exemplary people in our world, you need look no further than the high-profile members of society.  With such examples for youth to pattern, it is surprising that we have as many decent, caring people in society as we do.

 

Joe DiMaggio, and people of his generation, lived in a different era.  Christened the “Greatest Generation,” they lived through the Great Depression and World War II.  They understood that, for a society to flourish, each of its members must strive not merely for personal gain but also for the greater good.

 

That, of course, was before the “rock star” mentality took hold and a form of insanity was spawned.  Today, non-productive (in terms of tangible output) members of society in sports and entertainment earn fifty to one-hundred times more than the President of the United States.  C-level executives earn hundreds of times the income of their workers.  Valued so much more than the common person, these individuals lose touch with the reality of life for the vast majority of people on this planet, the people with whom yesterday’s heroes held a common bond.

 

The disconnect is also apparent in publicly-held attitudes and perspectives.  Peculiarity and non-conformity are celebrated.  Narcissism has become normality.  The end-result is an apparent lack of responsibility for behaviors and actions.  This is conspicuous in our judicial and political systems.  Criminals frequently blame their actions on adverse childhood experiences and mental illnesses.  Governmental officials have power but little accountability, segregating themselves from those governed by establishing different standards and consequences for their indiscretions.

 

In such a climate, from where will our heroes come?  Mrs. Robinson’s answer, “Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away,” is neither comforting nor acceptable.  In a society whose priorities have been misplaced, we need more Joe DiMaggio’s in every field of endeavor, individuals whose quiet dignity speaks much more eloquently of their integrity than all of the shameless self-promotion we witness today.

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