You hear a lot about the definitions of insanity. There are some popular notions that promote a feeling that it is an inescapable illness. Of course, the most popular is Albert Einstein’s quote on the subject, something you hear quite often in business, and I have been known to use it — or a version of it — quite often when referring to solving problems. In fact, I have a related quote I devised in 2013.
Insanity is an extraordinarily overused word in today’s English language (at least in the US from my experience), meaning good things (“insanely good”), bad things (“insanely violent behavior”), and many things in the middle (remember song lyrics “insane in the membrane…insane in the brain” ??) with sarcastic uses as well.
Let’s move past the varying definitions and usage of the word. The reason why this word is so popular is because more and more people seem to find themselves overcome with the feeling that their behavior, work, relationships, and/or some other parts of their life is “insane”. That they cannot figure out what has put them into a certain position, nor can they figure out how to get out of it.
Instead of people feeling helpless, I want to propose what should be done to battle insanity. I had an epiphany about the topic not long ago. And that epiphany is that there are two, and perhaps only two, behaviors — or decisions — that result in “insanity”: fear and laziness.
It actually came to me as I considered what it is about my father that I respect most of all. Considering he is my greatest mentor and the single person I look up to the most in my life — perhaps the only person for whom I have a true and deep admiration — I have surely subconsciously searched for his specific quality(ies) to mimic. Indeed, there are many. Too many to list. Too many to think about, too many to focus on, and I fear, too many to actually achieve. He is an insanely loving human. Loving to his family, his children, his wife, loving to all humans, friends, rich, poor, the thirsty, the hungry, the disabled, the uncomfortable, the uneducated, the unloved, the confused, loving to all living things, animals, and all of God’s realm. I have seen him pick up a deer from the road and throw it into the back of his truck to take it to the vet, and proceed to visit it each day. I have seen him jump out of a car on a large intersection to direct traffic in a completely messy situation that would have persisted and multiplied without his sacrifice. I have seen him climb into a moving truck to stop a criminal. I have seen him manage a runaway coal barge headed for certain crash directing people along the river’s banks to finally secure ropes with the help of the barge’s stranded. I have seen him jump in to direct panicking people after a bomb threat on our airplane. I have seen him drive all day to a tennis tournament for a young teenager, encourage him after his premature loss, and teach him more than he knows by proceeding to drive back all night in order to make it back for a championship soccer game that was only won because of this effort. I have seen him, immeasurable times, stand up for people. Stand up for their feelings, for their beings, for their rights, for the ever-so-important and simple quality of their lives. I have seen him help tens of people start their own businesses. I have seen him loan money to people that needed it, just because they sincerely needed it. I have seen him open his house and dinner table to people, like they did “in the old days”. And if someone asks nicely, he always goes to them. He always helps them. However he can. However he can. Always. And all that said, I have also seen him stand up for what he believes in, even at the sacrifice of others’ feelings. I have seen him stand up for his God even when his friends wouldn’t like it. I have seen him stand up for unknowingly confused and oppressed people, even when they were unconsciously put in such a situation unconsciously by someone he knew. To him, it is all so clear. It is all so clear, even when everyone around him cannot see the forest from the trees. Even when nobody has come at the situation from the specific angle he has come at it from — since he comes at things from every angle. He comes at every thing, from every angle. Every thing. Every angle. A related quote I have for him is “Yes, Dad picks his battles carefully. It just so happens he picks them all.” << That was a quick stream of consciousness since I did not even plan to begin listing his qualities or stories. And I still indeed have not even begun to scratch the surface of my father's amazing qualities, experiences, lessons he has taught through action, etc. So it is, that many of his actions -- even I would have argued at various times -- appeared "insane". Yet, I had an epiphany not long ago. The feeling of insanity, perhaps defined most popularly today as a "helpless feeling of being stuck in a rut", is something my Dad never feels. I'm not sure he has ever felt it. I'm not sure he is at all capable of feeling it. And the question is why? I don't think he is ever idle or stuck in a rut. He is always moving forward. Undoubtedly, he has amazing support in my mother. And her positive impact on my father should not go unmentioned. She enables this forward motion in him. However, I am now convinced that I can filter down the qualities of my father into one thing: he does not allow fear or laziness to ever override what his brain and heart feel is right. He does not allow fear or laziness to ever override what his brain and heart feel is right.
He doesn’t spend any time on thinking about this. That I am sure of. This is natural for my father. In fact, he may argue if he read this that those who have lost a connection with their conscious — in a way, lost a connection with God — are the only ones who could suffer from such an affliction. If that is true, I think the thing he perhaps has taken for granted is that he is probably one of the very very few that retains this level of clarity and consciousness connectivity. To be fearful or to be lazy about any aspect of life at all would be near impossible for him. Just in the same way that to overcome a fear or to overcome a laziness can feel near impossible for so many, at least when it comes to certain aspects of life.
We have heard much about fearing fear itself. Again, vague. We hear much from today’s successful people about how they have experienced failure, and even its importance. The key here is that failure is incorrectly defined in these instances. I would argue that failure is the lack of effort (laziness) and the victory of fear over courage. The end result has little to do with success and failure in the grand scheme of things. The problem we have as humans is not the end result. The problems we have come at us everyday, with our behaviors, our actions, and our ongoing mindsets.
So, think about overcoming our issues with two words (along with their opposites): fear (along with courage) and laziness (along with effort)
It is harder said than done, but the balance you achieve between these two words and their opposites will very very precisely define who you are, what kind of life you lead, and how you feel about yourself when you lay your head to bed each night, one way or the other. And now there are just two words to focus on instead of countless books, topics, theories, random quotes, advice-animals, etc. that are floating around out there. The battles you fight and the problems you solve will change either due to your situation or due to your own desires. However, knowing you will take them on with courage and effort is all that you and those around you need to know. I feel extremely thankful and grateful to have as pure a role model as anyone can have in these two areas. A role model I have had the opportunity to interact with everyday. And I hope the epiphany he has helped me experience can help people battle insanity more readily.
PS: This post took a totally different direction than I had originally planned, with a somewhat unexpected focus on my father and this piece being interestingly tied to his legacy. I usually let these drafts sit for a few days — even weeks sometimes. And many I don’t get around to publishing either because they don’t seem quite right or because I don’t get a chance to go back to read/tweak them. However, my wife read this, and both emotional and practical as she is, she suggested immediately afterwards very simply that not publishing this would be submitting to some fear I might have. I’m not sure that would be the case, but I don’t want to take any chances, so, this is immediately published without any edits.
PPS: At the risk of being too verbose, I read the “PS” to my wife and she simply said the PS itself proved my fear. Touche. Published none-the-less.