The Poor Result Of A Good Habit

My Pa instilled in me something I'll never be able to repay him for. He taught me that if you want to get good at something, you need to put your reps in.

During my 19 years under his roof, the thing I wanted to get good at was basketball.

From the time I was old enough to play till the day I moved out to move into my dorm room, my Pa always had me on a schedule. Even in the summer time when school was out, he'd come in and wake me up to go practice on my skills.

My routine was automatic, thanks to his conditioning. I knew what was coming everyday. The approach earned me a basketball scholarship.

However, looking back there was also a residue left behind from doing life this way - a poor result of a good habit if you will.

I perpetually began to color inside the lines at all times. The formula seemed perfect. I followed the rules. I asked to go the bathroom. I didn't question the recipe.

I clung tight to normative behavior and thought, "If it has worked before, it'll always work in the future." I didn't push my thinking to the edge.

And then, one day, for whatever reason, I realized that I lacked any real distinction. I didn't have a desire to be rogue without purpose, but I felt as though I had jumped into a river to join fish I didn't want to swim with.

What was the backbone of my approach to everything - discipline - turned me into a robot. Adhering to plans, procedures and routines to the tee without leaving any room for fresh thinking. No adventure. No novelty. No thrilling challenge.

With this realization, my fire turned into a flickering flame. Nobody else could see it, but I knew it. It felt like an insidious growth slowly taking over my immune system - sucking the violent passion right out of me.

Think of a lion who has been caged for 10 years after being raised in the Serengeti. His rage is stripped from his soul - he gets feed on time every day, sleeps with no real outside threat, and never taps into his greatest strength of playing fearlessly in the wild.

As we age, we are more apt to cling to safety in the form of routine. It feels good - like a warm, cozy bed for our spirit. With this posture, it gets increasingly difficult to do things differently - to take more risks.

Not only do we forget that it's okay to color outside the lines, we often don't even think to do it. It's not even on our radar.

This posture of perennial conservatism has a knack to bleed into every corner of life.

And then, our existence becomes as dull as dish water.

I'm not shouting at you to become so open minded that your brain falls out.

Rather, I'm encouraging you to use boredom in a way that allows you to throw some elbows. The French novelist Gustave Flaubert said this:

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work. 

My upbringing taught me the importance of regularity and orderly behavior.

But I've learned that regularity and orderly behavior without violence or originality is like watching paint dry.

I'm learning how play fearlessly.

I'm getting better at breaking rules.

I'm fearful of a good, but somewhat uninteresting life.  And so, I'm unlearning how to be good in order to be violent.

Maybe it's time for you to do the same?