It Was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times

I’m a big football fan. I have been for years. I’ve been a fan of the New England Patriots fan ever since they were formed as the Boston Patriots many moons ago. And I've been a Notre Dame fanever since the 60s, when I attended there. I was the third of three sons who all went to Notre Dame. Both of my daughters later went there in the 80s and 90s, and they both married Notre Dame students. So you can imagine how obnoxious we all are during a “normal” football season.

But this is not a normal football season. As I write this, the Patriots are 10-0, and arguably the greatest pro football team ever. And Notre Dame is having possibly its worst season ever, at 2-9. But this article is not about football. It’s about the need for challenges in our lives. Because I find that I can’t really get into rooting for either of my teams this year. I have yet to watch a full football game this season.

Why? Because the Patriots are so good that they are blowing everyone out in the first half, and the Fighting Irish are so bad that they’ve been out of most of their games by halftime as well. What fun is that?

I used to teach a Personal Finance class at a nearby college (I promise this is related to my story). On the first night, here’s the assignment I would give them:

“Congratulations! You just won $10,000,000 in the lottery! For our next class, write a few paragraphs on how you will spend the money. Not how you will invest it, but how over the course of your life you will plan to spend it.”

After doing this a few times, I came to realize that you could always toss out the first paragraph, which would inevitable contain those things that our culture says should make us happy – the house on the water, the car, the boat, etc. It was in the second paragraph that you began to get a sense of what they really wanted to do with their lives. Things they has always wanted to learn or experience, desires for travel, family relationships, charitable goals, etc.

But one item often came up, and it never ceased to surprise me how often it did, because the assignment had basically taken the need for money off the table. These students frequently expressed the desire to own their own businesses. When I probed this, it always came down to one thing. The challenge.

I believe there is an innate need in all of us to rise to a challenge. To overcome a challenge. This is why we love the underdog so much. Some of the greatest moments in sports, and for that matter, the greatest moments in all of history, have come when an underdog rises to the occasion and defeats a superior foe. David slays Goliath. Rocky beats Apollo Creed. The U.S. Olympic Hockey team beats the Russians. The Red Sox (finally) beat the Yankees.

And so it is in life. One of the things that we lose if we completely retire from our work environment is the loss of challenge. And some may try to fill that void with improved golf scores, completing crossword puzzles, a winning senior softball team, but I don’t think that’s going to do it for me.

Right now, my challenge is writing a book and a blog that people will want to read and will find rewarding to visit. Something that will make a difference in people’s lives. Have you thought about yours?

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