The end of the year is fast approaching, and many of us are simultaneously looking backward and forward. We take a moment to assess our personal, professional, and spiritual progress as we complete yet one more orbit around the sun, and wonder what the next trip will bring.
We Americans are strivers who believe life should be the steady upward march of measurable, material progress toward perfect happiness. When we take our annual “holiday review,” we become frustrated if our bank accounts haven’t grown, our waistlines haven’t shrunken, our teeth aren’t whiter and brighter, and all our relationships aren’t in tip-top shape.
So we make our resolutions to save more, eat less, forgive and forget, work harder and smarter, make it to church more often, call our parents and/or our kids, check insurance policies, reduce taxes, clean the gutters, fix that leaky faucet, and on and on, ad infinitum.
There is so much to do. And so little time – our most precious resource – to get it all done.
Good grief! Just like last year! This is madness!
If we’ve made progress, do we believe it to be enough? Does everything end with a, “Yes, but …” because everything is on a relative scale? Does Warren Buffet, looking at his $47 billion in assets, say to himself, “Dang, I’m not as rich as Bill Gates! He has $53 billion! Maybe next year!”
Maybe never being satisfied is the truth of the human condition, and the source of all progress. But when you boil it down to the individual, where do we find our deepest satisfaction and happiness?
I love the story of the woman who decided as an experiment to watch the Oprah Winfrey Show, and follow her advice to the letter for one year, and write down what happened, which later became a book. When she concluded her quest, she was exhausted and depressed, and her marriage was on the rocks.
So, we can’t have it all, even if we follow all the advice. And we need to make choices. Perhaps the focus should shift from doing to being. Think about the why more than the what.
One of the best, sweetest annual expressions of what is really important this time of year is found in the beloved Charlie Brown Christmas special, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.
Believe it or not, the show originated as an idea from an advertising agency and was commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company and created in only six months, start to finish. One of the most successful pieces of entertainment ever produced, the show was the result of a collaboration between cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, producer Lee Mendelson, who happened to be Jewish and who also helped write the lyrics to Christmas Time is Here, and animator Bill Melendez, with a jazz score by Vince Guaraldi.
When shared with CBS network executives, they thought the special would bomb, because the pace was too slow, the animation too limited, the voices too unpolished (the first time children’s voices were used to voice children), the jazz score was inappropriate, and there was no laugh track. The audience, however, loved it. Schulz, Mendelson, and Melendez went on to create 45 more animated specials.
The cartoon opens with Charlie Brown depressed about the commercialization of the holiday (and this is 50 years ago!). Snoopy has blinged out his doghouse to win a contest; Sally is writing Santa Claus for “tens and twenties,” and Charlie Brown, directing the school play, is ridiculed by his class for his extremely modest Christmas tree. In despair, he asks if anyone knows what Christmas is really all about, and Linus steps up and recites scripture from the Bible, describing the birth of Jesus, finishing with, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.”
Inspired, Charlie Brown leaves the school and attempts with a single bulb to decorate his tree, which nose-dives, and he thinks he’s killed his tree and failed again. The rest of the gang shows up, and restores and decorates the tree, then wishes him a Merry Christmas and they sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
Charlie Brown learns the meaning of Christmas, and maybe of life.
Which I will summarize here: The value of friendship, family, and community; the importance of peace and goodwill toward men; and the need for every individual to feel appreciated and important.
Thank you to our great clients, without whom our business would not exist; thank you to the staff at Lenz who work hard every day to deliver on our promises; and thank you to our excellent partners who strive to help us in so many ways.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!