When Lou Gehrig retired in 1939, he made a speech that included the following words: “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth”. Watch the speech online. It is one of the most powerful speeches of all time.
Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with amylotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also now known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He had a terminal diagnosis, and he knew it. Yet he considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
I want what Lou Gehrig had. Not ALS. I want the perspective that he had, to be able to feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth despite his circumstances.
I sometimes refer to myself as “the luckiest guy I know”. I borrowed the idea from Lou Gehrig. I figure he wouldn’t mind. But I also sometimes add “but I forget that sometimes”. In other words- I may be the luckiest guy I know, but I keep forgetting that.
A few years ago, one of my friends suggested that I read a book entitled “The Progress Paradox”. The subtitle of the book explained the books purpose: “How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse”. The first half of the book explains the authors view that life is getting better. The second half of the book explains the authors view that people feel worse about life, even though it keeps getting better.
The author suggests very strongly that we all have access to things that didn’t even exist 100 years ago. Things like improved healthcare, longer life spans, improved transportation, education, diet, exercise, etc. He suggests that even the poorest people in our society have access to things that didn’t exist for royalty two hundred years ago.
I don’t appreciate those things most of the time. I don’t walk around every day remembering to be grateful for clean water, fresh air, sunshine, healthy food, transportation, employment, etc. I forget to be grateful most of the time.
Anyone who knows me well knows how lucky I am. I have been the recipient of incredible life advantages from family and friends and colleagues. I have role models and mentors who have guided me all the way to where I am today.
Like “The Progress Paradox”, my life is a paradox. I might be the luckiest person I know, but I keep forgetting it.