Listening to author Garth Stein talk about The Art of Racing in the Rain as he addressed St. Petersburg College yesterday, I thought about a question that spoke to me personally and bears repeating to others:
If life can be viewed as a journey rather than a destination, are you making the most of the ride?
The Art of Racing in the Rain has been compared to The Alchemist and Life of Pi. Sitting four years on the NY Times Bestseller list and translated into 34 languages, Stein’s novel is written through the voice of dog named Enzo. The tale takes competitive racing and turns it into a meditation on humility and hope – even while facing despair.
In many ways, Stein’s life mirrors something of the book’s theme. With a background that includes creating documentaries out of NYC and a few years aboard musical theater cruises (“I’ve seen every place in the world for four hours”), Stein has plenty of his own life to draw upon for his writings. It’s also evident that he loves telling stories and sharing life experiences (“My wife wanted to know if I ever get tired of talking about myself. I asked her, Should I?”).
In spite of an endless array of professional, personal and anecdotal tales, a single quote from his seminal book encapsulated the underlying message to listeners. The endearing canine character exclaims: “It’s all about the ride.”
Those simple words embodied the message of both main character and author. They also struck a familiar chord with me.
According to Garth, we can choose to live life with a certain goal in mind and adhere unswervingly to its pursuit. But life offers curve balls, corners and GPS corrections. Things don’t always work out exactly as we imagine or plan.
As an alternative, we can orient ourselves toward a general goal but remain open and adaptive to impulses, opportunities and new experiences. They help us learn, discover, and be surprised in life. They have the potential to help us grow in ways we never imagined had we focused only on the destination and ignored the ride.
My life experience is nothing like author Garth Stein. Yet I found commonality in his message, “Do what’s true for you,” and “challenge yourself to adapt and change as (your) ideas grow.” I had already been living by this mantra.
A few years ago, I convinced my husband to pursue his dream. He’d already excelled in corporate life and again as owner of his own business. But he wanted more: he wanted a sense of purpose and an outlet for his creativity. At the same time, I was an emerging empty nester. I was looking forward to my next career but hardly enthused about working full time in our computer rep firm.
Out of sheer insanity, a desire to see where life would take us, or maybe a bit of both the two of us decided to take a leap. We closed the family business, moved to smaller digs and started with a general idea. We’d develop an entertainment company to positively impact culture. We started out representing a few musical artists and launching a best selling series of preschool books.
We didn’t realize our original pursuits would lead us to create our own content. In the beginning, it would have been too formidable an idea. Yet over time, my husband took a passion for sports and a love for words and turned it into Sports Comic Books narrated by a cartoon microphone named MIKE. I took incessant inquiry, a love for learning and a mindfulness about authentic living and turned it into blogs, videos and a book series called The Art of Happiness.
My husband didn’t start out creating MIKE Sports Comic Books. I didn’t know my private thoughts would be exported into the public domain. Instead, these entertainment properties emerged as the two of us adapted to changing times, challenging circumstances, inspiring invention and creative impulses. Today, both of us are loving what we’re doing. We’re loving the ride.
Only a few days ago, I looked back and reflected upon life since we jumped off our own family fiscal cliff. Has our trip always been smooth and easy, paved like a highway and filled with signs along the way? No. If it had, chances are good we would have chosen another path. Apparently, my husband and I wanted to learn to handle and wield our respective machetes. We also needed to taste the dust along a pioneering path of personal dreams. Even when daunted or feeling overwhelmed, we arise empowered and transformed.
There are many goals and destinations to be chosen and attained in life. They’re as varied and diverse as the people who choose them. For others like me, my husband and Garth Stein’s mythic dog Enzo, it’s all about the ride. The ride is what makes us happy.
So whether you’re aiming pointedly toward a particular goal or just ambling leisurely along a meandering path, may you enjoy the ride. And while you’re at it, may you find your destination and journey along the path a happy one, too!
Maura Sweeney is a Public Speaker and Author of The Art of Happiness
Find her books at Amazon