Conversations on Standards

I was listening to an audio book by a motivational speaker recently. “The universe is change, life is an opinion”, he states. The usual motivational lingo.

My father, as all Greeks, liked to think himself the philosopher. He had many classic quotes that he stood by, and some that he had adapted to suit circumstances. He was very principled, and one of the principles he imbued in us was that we set the standards by which we should achieve.

Let me give you an example or two. If I did well in an athletics race, he said just that. “Well done. Remember, you’ve set your own standard.” The same was said if I did well at school. Or in Engineering at varsity. It is an oddly motivational concept, for if I did not do well, or if I fell short of my standards, then I realised later that I had in fact let myself down. And those dependant on me.

The motivational speaker I was listening to went on: “Begin – to begin is half the work, let half still remains; again begin this, and you will have finished.”

My father’s energy in dealing with his work and community was almost unlimited. If I look back I am truly impressed. I guess the following quote from the motivational speaker was an adage my father lived by: “It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.

Although my father loved dancing, and he was an excellent dancer, he was also a keen wrestler. There certainly is some wisdom in the sage’s advice that “the art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.”

Then I thought of my favourite quote from Oscar Wilde:
Work like you don’t need the money.

                     Love like you’ve never been hurt.

                   And dance like no one is watching.

 

I suddenly realised why this quote has always harmonised with me. It is exactly how my father lived. The love he experienced and was hurt by was not some romantic teenage heartbreak, but the love of his family.

By the way, if you’re interested in the motivational speaker I have been talking about he wrote a book called “Meditations”. His name is Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor born in 121 of the Common Era, anno Domini.

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