Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Everthing I need to know in life, I learned from the weatherman

"There are two types of people in this world...."

That phrase is the introduction to some of the finest examples of egotism on the market. The most conventional way of completing the phrase, "There are two types of people in this world," is to put oneself (and whomever one is addressing) in the lofty position of being "right" and everyone else in the inferior position of being "wrong" or in some way lacking, at least by the speaker's self-centered set of standards.

Then there is the oversimplification factor. There are, of course, many types of people in this world. How boring would it be if there were only two?

Life isn't about me, and life isn't that simple.

But, when it comes to living life to the fullest, there are two types of people in this world: those who jump in with both feet and live with the consequences of their actions, and those who over-think every little detail to the point that no action ever gets taken.

More often than not, I find myself in the latter category.

I'm not arguing that carefully considering one's actions and consequences prior to making a decision is not a judicious thing to do. However, when you worry over every possible outcome to the point that you stand frozen and incapable of action, you become incapable of living life to your fullest potential.

I think those of us who tend to over-think things do so because we dislike being wrong more than those with healthy-sized egos. We all pay lip service to the "nobody's perfect" axiom, but somewhere deep inside we want to be considered perfect, or at least as close to perfect as one can get. Why wouldn't we? Our society has very little tolerance for those who err, with one notable exception:

The TV weatherman.

The TV weatherman has a very limited time frame in which he must make a decision about what he thinks the weather is going to do tomorrow, arrange his maps and graphics accordingly, comb his hair, check for oregano between his front teeth, and stand up in front of the camera to say with all confidence that you can leave your umbrella at home in the morning. He doesn't have time to agonize over what will happen if he gets it wrong, and he doesn't really have to, anyway. With all the computer models analyzing more data than a mere human ever could, the weatherman's predictions are usually uncannily accurate.

But - especially in Oklahoma - the weather can change without warning. Even with a million dollars worth of scientific equipment and all his years of meteorological training and experience, sometimes the weatherman is WRONG. When that happens, is it the end of the illustrious meteorologist's career?

No. The next day he gets up in front of the camera, takes some ribbing from his slightly soggy colleagues behind the news desk, smiles, and tries again. Within a couple of days, most people will have forgotten the inaccurate forecast. Why? In spite of his mistake, the weatherman keeps trying. He realizes that he won't always be right, but he keeps moving forward, and he moves forward without agonizing over his past mistakes or his potential future failures.

The best any of us can do is to take what we have learned from our past experiences, follow the advice of those who have gone before us, and make educated guesses about where our actions will lead based on those things. Sometimes we're going to get it wrong, but the times we get it right are what really matter in the end. Like with the weatherman, society will refuse to forget our mistakes only if we let those mistakes define us.

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