Charlie's Blog: Modes: Thrive And Survive


Modes: Thrive And Survive

Just do it.

I have worn Nike shoes for most of my adult life. I am not sure why I wore Nikes because I hate the shoes and the brand. A few years ago, I made the switch to New Balance, and I have been very happy with that decision. Nike is the shoe of the professional athlete and superstar. New Balance is the shoe your dad wears. Nike represents the shoe you wear in thrive mode. New Balance represents the shoe you wear in survive mode.

Now, this post is not about shoes. It was simply inspired by a satirical commercial from SNL about Nike apparel. The spot makes fun of the aerobic fantasy selves Nike appeals to contrasted with the sedentary reality of where their gear actually gets used--the couch. The commercial nails it hard. The ridiculous part isn't the couch part but the running and boxing parts. Ultimately, the couch potato should just get some cheap Fruit of the Loom sweat pants from Walmart. This is what I do. I cut the elastic ankle parts off to make "Ninja pants" that I wear as pajamas. They are very comfortable and last longer than those flannel pajama bottoms. But I digress.

For as long I remember, I have been caught between two modes of existence. The first mode is survive mode. This is what you do to make life possible. Basically, you work a job and pay the bills. Leisure is mostly watching a show or a movie on television. That's all the money and energy you can afford.

The second mode is thrive mode. This is the fantasy self you create in your mind where you do all the great things you imagine doing in your life. This is not working a job but having a career that fulfills you. This is being a bestselling author, speaking seven languages, and climbing Everest. This is becoming an Ironman triathlete, an entrepreneur, a successful investor, and spending leisure time traveling and seeing the world. I have never been in thrive mode. I realize that I will never be in thrive mode. Thrive mode is just some fantasy garbage. The rest of my days will be spent in survive mode.

I don't have any regrets about this capitulation to reality. I like reality. I like being sensible and opting for a quiet life. I take life one day at a time now. I have crucified my fantasy self. It is one of the best decisions I ever made in life. I have stopped becoming and opted for just being.

My accident forced this decision for me. It took getting my brains smashed up for me to get some sense in my head. Instead of pursuing my fantasy self, I am trying to go back to my former self. It is a long and difficult journey. I never knew that trying to be normal could be so hard.

Every day, I write down a modest list of chores and errands that I need to do. My old self would have done them in little time. It takes me all day, and I have never done everything on that list. On my report card for each day, I am a D-. On a good day, I am a D+. Today, I made an F. I didn't have the energy to get anything done.

I have put my dreams to sleep. This would be a tragedy except I was never going to live those dreams. I am in survive mode because I am a survivor. I take solace in the true tale of Ernest Shackleton's failure to cross the Antarctic by land as his ship, the Endurance, became trapped in ice. They went from thrive mode to survive mode in one of the greatest adventures of exploration history. Shackleton was mostly a failure in life, but his survival story stands as his most epic achievement. He got himself and his men out of an awful mess. Shackleton was a survivor.

Thrive mode serves vanity and ego. Survive mode is about humility. Most of us will be nothing in life. That's a good place to be. Pride is what gets you stuck in the ice at the bottom of the world. Humility is what gets you out.

I have never made it to thrive mode in my life. I never put the miles on those Nikes. The irony is that I put the miles on those New Balance sneakers. I walk like a toddler, but I walk. And when I don't walk, I go easy on myself. I remind myself that surviving is done one day at a time. We try again tomorrow.