I Got A(nother) Tattoo

I have generally made my mother proud, except that one time…when I got a tattoo. My one reckless youthful indiscretion. And it left a mark…for life. Whoops! If you know me, but haven’t noticed it you’re not alone. It’s small and on my ankle, which isn’t in many peoples’ line of sight. It took my mom 3 weeks to notice the tattoo and by then it was too late. (Sorry mom!!!)

In case you’re curious, the tattoo is of the cartoon character Speedy Gonzales. I’ll admit it is a silly and childish thing to permanently mark on my body. What can I say? I was young and dumb. I impulsively chose Speedy at the tattoo parlor. My memory is foggy now, 20+ years later, but I wanted it to be running related. If you’ve ever seen me run you know I have a ridiculously compact stride. It’s looks like I’m running on 2X fast-forward compared to other runners, kind of like Speedy Gonzales. There! That’s the connection. Dumb, right? Well that’s in the past.

Mom thinks that I regret Speedy, but she’s wrong. It gives me the ability to shock people. Everyone thinks I’m so serious and straight laced. No one would describe me as impulsive or silly or childish. And then they see the tattoo and perceptions change. I’m still Mr. Serious, but I’m also something else that’s a little harder to put a label on.

My career counselor Anita did put a label on it. I’m whimsical. Anita and I meet periodically for my regular career check up. I make a point to do this at least twice a year, kind of like a dental cleaning. (That’s my serious side.) Our most recent meeting was last month.

Anita observed that I’m really analytic and deliberate on the surface, but deep down I’m also whimsical (a rare combination). Anita is very perceptive and hit the nail on the head. Little did she know she that my whimsical nature was about to take over again because I was taking the plunge again and getting tattoo #2 later that day.

After several years of trying I started meditating consistently in 2015. Don’t let that impress you. It’s not much. I sit still for 10 minutes and breathe with my eyes closed. My mind wanders in different directions but one thing I kept coming back to was the word Grind.

Grind? What the hell does that mean? I didn’t know, but something about it resonates with me. I kept thinking about it, when I was meditating…running… walking to the bus…taking a shower…daydreaming at work. I couldn’t get Grind out my head. Over time, I figured out what Grind meant to me. (And it only took about a year…ironically)

Grind applies to everything I do. It’s why I run. It’s why I save money. It’s why I keep goals. It’s why I read regularly. It’s why I meditate. It’s why I write this blog. None of these things will solve my problems today or even tomorrow, but I firmly believe if I do them consistently over a long time they will get me where I need to go. (I am the tortoise, not the hare…err Speedy Gonzales…oh wait…whatever, you get the point.)

There’s no glory in doing the little things but they matter. They should be done every day. Yet many people skip over them. Why? The little things are never urgent. There are too many of them, and they can always be done tomorrow. But everything is connected. If you don’t do the little things today odds are you won’t do them tomorrow either. That’s a path to going nowhere. I don’t want to go nowhere.

No one is going to congratulate me on flossing my teeth today, but I did it anyway. I’ll do it again tomorrow…and the next day…and the day after that…and next week/month/year. No one will ever notice that I flossed (except my dentist twice each year), but people do notice that I’ve got my act together. It’s because I do the little things.

So you floss every day. Big deal! What does that have to do with grind? Flossing is easy. You don’t have to consciously think about flossing. You just have to remember to do it. With enough time you don’t even have to do that. You just go through the motions. You’re right, but doing this little thing affects other not so little things that are difficult. Everything is connected.

Searching for a job is hard. I’m not looking for a new job every day, but it felt like I was back in 2013. My career had stalled and I needed a change. The problem was there was no change in sight. I was standing on a path to nowhere. Finally I got an offer in 2014. Not just an offer. My dream job! The offer was the exact industry, function, and company (more or less) that I told Anita I wanted to be in back in 2012. It was incredible. I was like Babe Ruth calling his shot in the 1932 World Series, but I called it back in 1930.

In case you missed that, I was actively searching for a job for more than 2 years. That was a GRIND! It was a crucible that defined me. There was a lot of rejection in between prolonged silences. But I grinded out those tough times and got exactly what I wanted. I couldn’t have done it without those little things like flossing and making the bed. I endured because I did the little things. Everything is connected.

From that point forward Grind became my mantra. It was my source of strength. When I had a bad day, I knew I could grind it out and tomorrow could be better. When I had a prolonged stressful event, like selling my stupid condo, I knew I could grind it out. Even when my dream job ended unexpectedly, I knew I had the strength to grind through the situation. That worked great…until I didn’t.

Here were go again. I was where I didn’t want to be: Standing on a path to nowhere and looking for a new job.

This time I didn’t have a safety net. It’s a lot easier to be picky when you already have a steady paycheck. It’s also easier to stay motivated when you have a ‘North Star’ dream job to chase after. Most importantly, time heals all wounds and it’s easy to forget the sting of rejection. When you think you nailed the interview and deserve the job offer, but the employer doesn’t agree. I didn’t know if I could grind that out. Of course I eventually did, but I could’ve gotten out of my funk sooner.

The experience made me realize my mantra is not always enough for the REALLY tough times, the ones that take a LONG time to bounce back from.

Life moves fast and I can’t mentally brace myself for all of the curveballs coming my way. I needed a reminder that’s always within an arm’s length reach. Now I have it! A tattoo of the word Grind literally on my left forearm.

The G has gear teeth to show that everything is connected. Small moves today can lead to big changes in the future.

You might think I’m naïve and foolish to have tattoo on my forearm. People can easily notice that when I wear a short sleeve shirt. They’ll judge me for it. You’re probably right. I don’t care.

This tattoo is for me, not anyone else. I need the reminder somewhere that I can see at a moment’s notice. I can see it when I’m running. I can see it when I’m writing. I especially need it when I’m writing because writing is hard! Writing this blog post was hard. I explore deep emotions, and it took weeks to sort through them. That doesn’t even address the obvious concern that I may be sharing too much information in public. I looked at Grind every day I worked on this piece. It’s the reason I was able to push through.

I admit that this blog post is risky (more than any I’ve published before). What can I say? I’m whimsical. The only difference now is that everyone else will know about it.

Sorry mom,

Don

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