A New Strategy of ‘Maneuvers’ for Life’s Pathways
Rita Papazian
Norwalk Citizen-News
November 8, 2013

Yes, the holidays are approaching.  Some rituals like the World Series, Halloween and Election Day have recently passed in no order of importance, but we are fast-approaching a line-up of others that will take our attention.

I would like to share with you three recently published books that have garnered my attention. These books are filled with advice that not only will get me through the next two months but also help me along my journey as I maneuver through the last quarter of my life. Yes, I consider the current path I am on a series of maneuvers.

I am heeding the advice I am finding on the pages of the following books: “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” by Mason Currey;   “Happy Money: the Science of Smarter Spending” by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton; and “The One-Day Contract: How to Add Value to Every Minute of Your Life” by Rick Pitino with Eric Crawford. These books offer advice that, in essence, may bring meaning and less stress to your life.

Let’s begin with “Daily Rituals;” for here is a book I really can relate to. I like to consider myself a creative, productive person whose life has many hills and valleys. Recently, however, I seem to becoming more stuck in the valley.  In his book, Currey writes about “the circumstances of creative activity, not the product; it deals with manufacturing rather than meaning.” He addresses the question: “How do you do meaningful creative work while also earning a living?” He focusses on the routines of 161 inspired, and inspiring minds – among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists and mathematicians. He writes about these artists’ daily routines – quirky, in many instances, that afforded them the opportunity to do their best work.  Currey says he “wanted to show how grand creative visions translate to small daily increments; how one’s working habits influence the work itself, and vice versa.”

I found similarities between Currey’s approach to creativity and Dunn and Norton’s approach in discussing money and how we spend it. They show that it’s not the amount of money one has that brings happiness, but how you spend money. They offer five principles:  Buy Experience. Material things provide less happiness than experiential purchases, such as taking a trip or attending a concerts; Make it a Treat. In other words, limit access to things one likes best; Buy time. That is, look at a purchase in terms of how much time it may save you; Pay Now, Consume Later. People are less prone to overspending when they pay up front; Invest in Others.  Typically, the idea here is that it is better to give than to receive.

University of Louisville’s basketball coach Pitino draws upon his own long-time coaching career and personal joys and and sorrows to offer advice in approaching each day as if you had a “one-day contract.” He notes that often in sports when people have long-term contracts they often do their best in the last year of the contract.  “…if you’re always at your best toward the end of your contract, why not try to create a situation where you can capture that mentality all the time?”

Pitino offers a variety of advice in how to hold on to the mentality that produces an individual’s best.  He talks about the importance of humility and admits that he was not “the picture of humility” for much of his career. He says, “If you’re always at your best toward the end of your contract, why not try to create a situation where you can capture that mentality all the time.  He talks about keeping your focus, not necessarily on yourself, but on the team of people you may work with and on the work that needs to be achieved. Another important aspect is to keep technology in perspective and not have technology rule your life. While it can be a useful tool, technology can also be a distraction.

Pitino also addresses the importance of “meaningful distractions” and he says, sports is an example of a meaningful distraction. Owning a stake in a race horse, Goldencents is his meaningful distraction. The horse ran in this year’s Kentucky Derby.

I agree with Pitino that sports can be a meaningful distraction as witnessed last week with the battle between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox.  However, the distraction is temporary and ultimately I would rather  heed Currey’s advice when he says, “A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.”

In reflecting upon his own research for the book, Currey quotes from a 1941 essay by V.S. Pritchett who was writing about English Historian Edward Gibbon:  Quoting Currey, “Pritchett writes, ‘the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lost a minute. It is very depressing.’”

© Copyright 2013 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.