by Joshua Routh
A few years back I gained a brilliant new friend and mentor named Paul. Since he, like me, is an early riser, we meet up at a breakfast joint before even the regulars have hit their snooze button.
It is always the same. Paul is there first, and when I walk up to our booth, he rises, we hug and I say, “How are you Paul?”
Paul never fails to respond with, “I’m Awesome But Getting Better!”
He says this every, single, time. It is less a phrase, and more like his mantra. He lives his life by it. It is his way of connecting to the person he is, and who he would like to be.
Obviously, this annoys me a little. Not because every time I ask the normal greeting, “Hey there Paul, how are you doing?” He answers with this one standard reply. It offends my senses because it is so good, I wish I had thought of it. He even named his capital investment firm, ‘ABGB’.
At one of our regular morning chats I asked him, “How did you come up with Awesome But Getting Better?”
He looked at me seriously and said, “Because for years I was Miserable But Getting Worse. I had to change my mindset.”
The thing is, I always know what is coming when I ask him how he is doing. It is always, “I am Awesome But Getting Better!”
Because he is.
When we first started meeting up, it took me off balance when he would ask, “And how are you, Joshua?”
Seriously. To someone who has just announced that they are essentially a glaring, life sized example positive growth mindset, you cannot just merely respond, “I’m fine.”
This of course created one of those situations where I am both inspired and afflicted by the need to get creative.
Often when the need arises, I imagine my favorite part of the brain. It is one of the parts that is integral to creativity. The hippocampus. As a psychology nerd and an avowed logophile, it also makes the list of my favorite words.
Instead of waiting for a muse, I imagine my hippocampus, mouth open awaiting a tossed watermelon, eager to fulfill its duty and deliver its creative response.
Sitting in my car, having just left the café, I began tossing watermelons, ideas came fast and I began scribbling interesting comebacks on the back of a Chinese food menu in black sharpie.
Having come up with quite a few, I was ready for the moment Paul would say, “I am Awesome But Getting Better! How are you?”
For a while at our meetups, I began by using my favorites, quotes from random writers, poets, and musicians.
“I am taking the road less traveled.”
“I am raging against the dying of the light.”
“I am shuffling off this mortal coil.”
“I am fumbling towards ecstasy.”
These were fine. They made him laugh. That was good. What I required though, was something wholly original. Something destined to crush his puny 4 letter acronym monstrosity of wisdom, hope, and inspiration. Purely in pursuit of creative pinnacles and jest of course.
Any good humorist knows one of the simplest rules of comedy is to go big. Mega-size whatever it is that you want to joke about, overdo the impersonation, take it over the top and you will often find the funny. It is the place that caricatures are born from. Not all funny can be found in this place, sometimes it can border on offensive and/or annoying. But occasionally it lands.
Any good improviser knows that sometimes you have to just toss the hippocampus a watermelon and hope for the best.
The next time we were set to get together, I showed up first. I sat in the booth, burning with anticipation.
He approached the booth. I stood.
“Hey there Paul, how are you doing?”
“I am Awesome But Getting Better! And how are you?”
“Thank you for asking Paul, I am…”
I tossed the watermelon, and gave the hippocampus a sole request, “Go big!”
My hippocampus delivered.
I opened my mouth and my creativity loosed and like the kraken of the deep, my personal wisdom was released. I had suddenly created my own little mantra.
“…FACING EACH OF LIFE’S CHALLENGES AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO GROW AS A HUMAN BEING!”
What had started as a cheeky joke, surprised me. It suited. It was right where I was at. It became a serious statement of how I want to live each day.
It also came with its own supersize acronym. I even had it printed on a t-shirt which I wore to my next meetup with Paul. Paul may have ABGB, but I had FEOLCAAOTGAAHB!
From then on, I didn’t have to rehearse it, I just knew it in my bones. It was always right there on my tongue.
Soon though I realized I didn’t want to just ‘Face’ life’s challenges, I wanted to grab on to them.
Once again, I tossed a watermelon and through a simple twist of iteration, ‘Facing’ became ‘Embracing’.
So now, my standard response to anyone, whether in the elevator or passing someone on the street, anytime someone asks how I am doing, I respond with “I am Embracing Each Of Life’s Challenges As An Opportunity To Grow As A Human Being!”
No, truthfully, it is not every time. I am not that annoying, well I can be, but no. It is more a thing I pull out frequently to make people smile, to break the rhythm of the grocery store clerk etc. It never fails to garner a smile and it never fails to serve as a reminder to myself of the person I am or wish to be.
All of this leads me to you, here now.
I am imagining that you have a phrase or mantra of your own. Is it a quote that you crafted or is it something you heard once that resonated?
Or maybe you don’t. Just a thought, mental watermelons are cheaper than the real thing, I assure you. Give it a try.
It is a truism, that worldly distractions can often pull our attention away from our broader objectives. I find that the power of a mantra or motto can serve as a guiding star amidst life’s chaos.
These succinct phrases, whether they’re inspirational, calming, or humorous, can anchor us to our core values and desires.
It’s easy to push aside our daily grand intentions or simple habit changes. A well-chosen motto can swiftly remind us of our true path and help steer us back to it.
Whether it be motto, mantra, proverb, slogan, or adage, the underlying message remains: a short (or not so short), powerful reminder of a bigger truth or aspiration.
Think of the many organizations, nations, and groups that have their own mottos. These serve as a guiding principle. A beacon in times of doubt. Why shouldn’t we all have one?
There are of course many posters, bookmarks, bumper stickers, crocheted doilies scattered about that offer platitudes that often become meaningless.
Believe me, I have collected many books of quotes in my day. Quotes are good fun and a great way to connect to the truth. The issue is, so often it is someone else’s truth we are adopting. Personally, I think the exercise of crafting your own phrase is vital. It came from you. You are much more deeply connected to the idea.
Crafting A Resonant Phrase:
Concise - Aim for simplicity. Whittle it down to only necessary words. Even EEOLCAAOTGAAHB doesn’t have a spare word.
Emotionally Resonant — Ensure it touches your heart or stirs you inside.
Catchy — Rhymes or alliteration can make your phrase more memorable.
Revise — Your phrase can be revisited and modified. Test them out, see how they feel, and if they don’t quite fit, tweak them or try new ones.
If all else fails, keep tossing the hippocampus watermelons and see what happens.
As always, keep living ‘To The Hilt’,