ONE-HUNDRED DEGREE AIR buffeting my face through the open window of our no-frills 1981 Honda Civic slowed to a breeze as I pulled off Interstate 15 into a rest area tucked along the Virgin River Gorge in extreme northwest Arizona.
Despite the still furnace-like heat of 4:00 A.M. desert air, I took a sip of coffee. Along with stretching my legs, it offered the push I needed to stay awake at this mid-point of an all-night drive from Pasadena, California to Capital Reef National Park, Utah.
Make Your Own Winning Choice
Five hours earlier, my wife and I had exited the Rose Bowl, where we had watched teams from Egypt and Italy kick their way through a first-round soccer match in the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Before the game, we had loaded the car and parked it on a side street far enough from the stadium to avoid most of the post-game traffic. Coffee, still hot in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics thermal mug I had purchased the previous week, awaited me in the cup holder.
Any doubts we’d had about our choice to spend two weeks out of L.A. rather than in the chaos of a city overrun by the international spectacle vanished as we entered the 210 Freeway. The exhilaration of being on the move confirmed our choice.
We had wondered if we should stay in town to see the Olympics in person or use our limited time off to tour states yet unseen on the way East to visit family. Our compromise was to watch one soccer game, then head out for an all-night road trip followed by a two-week escape north through Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and then to home states in the Southeast.
The commemorative coffee mug is long gone, but the memory it holds—hot desert air and the thrill of an exotic trip as almost-newlyweds—is more than worth the few dollars I paid for it.
It’s also a symbol of how to make the right Different choice, and the lesson of 1984 is more relevant now than ever.
Crowds, fads, trends, and FOMO all create their own momentum. Countless people make a choice to do the same thing, and, taken together, the mass mentality is mindless. No one really thinks about what they’re doing.
For our Summer Olympics decision, we had to face the presumed foregone conclusion that anyone who lives in the city where the Olympics is held will take advantage of the incredible opportunity and attend the Games.
Some folks in Los Angeles were bunking with friends so they could rent out houses at $1,000 a night and share the profits. And there were lots of out-of-towners glad to pay the rate. So, surely anyone who already lives in town should hang around, right?
A foregone conclusion is probably one for which you haven't weighed the pro's and con's to determine your own best choice. And to be completely transparent, our decision to leave town wasn’t easy.
While we respect the meaning and achievement of the Olympics, we’re not particular sports fans. On the other hand, we are travel junkies. We’ll do most anything to get away for an adventure—and the further out of town, the better.
In 1984, our vacation time was limited. That year, in fact, it came down to the two weeks during the L.A. Olympics that we could get away from our jobs. We had to decide what mattered to us. Not what should matter. Or what actually does matter to other people.
And about “what actually does matter to other people”: The final choice is not the point.
I’m not suggesting that anyone was wrong to stay in town. And I don't think making the popular choice is always wrong. It’s only a less good choice if it’s not what really means something to you.
Your Measure of Success
Making choices to do Different necessarily means you’re doing something that the “crowd” is not doing. Discerning what is really you versus what is simply groupthink is an ongoing need.
If you ever feel like you’re making a choice just because “it’s the thing to do,” STOP!
Ask yourself where the choice will take you, and if it’s not the direction you want, go to the effort to figure out a better option for you.
I wrote a while back about the significance of coffee mugs and similar memorabilia. They’re a tangible witness to what you’ve achieved.
They can also be a reminder of the right choices you've made.
I bought a souvenir travel mug to commemorate the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. But for me, the significance lies not in the fact that it was an Olympics mug but that it was a travel mug.
*Photo credit: Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay.
**Photo credit: Renee Fisher on Unsplash.
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