The Wisdom of Don Schlitz

The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep

At the ripe old age of 23, Don Allan Schlitz Jr. of Durham, North Carolina  delivered to the world words of wisdom well beyond his years. His vision of leadership, creativity and what life’s all about has impacted me most of my life

And yet?

Most people attribute Don’s writing to Mr. Kenny Rogers.

It was only today that I knew who was responsible for the words that have resonated with me for so long:

On a warm summer's evening

On a train bound for nowhere

David Byrne of the Talking Heads was explicit when he wrote about life: 

We’re on a road to nowhere.

Schlitz was more subtle. 

Few words describe the creative life better than a train bound for nowhere. This train might be on fire. It might be getting attacked by bandits. There are a lot of times the whole process feels like its going off the rails.

Sure we may have goals. They give us directions, like train tracks. In the creative process, they’re totally arbitrary. This is true whether painting a picture, making big changes in our lives or starting a company. The rails go on long after we do.

Yes, of course the metaphors here are obvious. They’re obvious because they are so timeless.

When it comes to life?

If you’re going to play the game boy

You gotta learn to play it right.

We’ve got to do the best with the cards we’re dealt.

‘Cause every hands a winner

And every hands a loser

It’s really just a matter of what we do with them.

What’s more?

You gotta know when to hold'em

Know when to fold‘em

Know when to walk away

Know when to run

It’s really a matter of timing right?

Every Autumn I spin up this record. 

Every Autumn is the ending / beginning of another spin around the earth for me.

It’s also a time of darkness and a time of loss.

It get stuck in ruts.

I lose dreams.

There are times that I think that things are impossible, that I’m being overwhelmed and sliding backwards.

(The shorter amount of daylight really has a big impact on my optimism)

This fall?

I’m embracing the gambler.

I’m holding onto dreams and new habits.

I’m discarding some old work and parts of life that don’t work any more.

Don Schlitz realized something.

We’re all gamblers.

All of life is a gamble.

All of life is full of risks.

We can play our cards in so many ways.

And as we fade into the darkness of winter, how will you hold onto the light of hope and gather wisdom from the warmth of the people around you?

We all have an opportunity to help each other in the darkness. We all have an opportunity to help each other play the best with the hands we’re dealt.

Don Schlitz has never met me. He doesn’t know that I exist. And? He has provided me with a vast amount of comfort and wisdom by putting something out in the world.

What made him great? He did something. You can too.

It is through the connection with the generous people that I love that I have found an ace that I can keep. Share your cards. Pass out aces to those who want to play better.