the nuts and bolts


What do you dream you could do with your life? Is there something you wish you could do that you think is probably not going to happen? If only you had the time, the patience or the money, right?

We all have a perception of what fulfilling our dreams should be like. But when we get down to the nuts and bolts of the operation, it’s not as glamorous as it always seemed it should be. The whole “grass is greener” thing.

For example: I love music. It’s one of the numerous cornerstones of my life. So I decided a while back that I wanted to learn to create it, as opposed to just reaping the benefits of other people’s creativity. I was so motivated my junior year of high school that I asked for an acoustic guitar for Christmas…and I got it! I expected to be hammering out a song or two within the month.

I lost my motivation within the week.

some assembly required

I let it sit in its case for a while – a while being a year. Because I learned something as I began to strum my chords and pluck my strings: learning to play the guitar was hard! Switching between chords and playing intro riffs to the simplest of songs wasn’t all cheese and crumpets! Stairway to Heaven doesn’t sound so cool when you mis-pluck every other string in the intro. And when a guy can’t get past the first riff in one of his favorite songs, it doesn’t take much to get demoralized. I’ve decided that every passion or skill set should come with a disclaimer on the box reading, “Some assembly required.”

I knew I had to practice a hell of a lot more if I was going to get as good as John Mayer – he looked lonely on that stage all by himself! But practicing can be frustrating enough, let alone not seeing a bit of improvement. The perception I had was that I was going to train hard and practice all the time until I got wicked good! By the time I was 22 I would know every song anyone could name – the cool ones anyway. I’d be able to stand on a stage with Phish and jam with them – matching ’em tit for tat. I would own six or seven guitars because, well, don’t all awesome guitarists own a bunch of guitars?

The experience was a bit different than I anticipated…

That’s how it is with anything in life, though. We all have this perception of where we want our destinies to lead and who we want to become. But when we actually try to walk that road, we realize it’s really more of a path than a road…there’s dips and crannies we get our feet caught in and trip ourselves up…and it’s a bit more uphill than what we thought it would be…and branches keep hitting us in the face…

You dream of getting in shape. You’ll have that coveted six-pack, buns of steel and those sweet lines on either side of your abs leading down to your crotchal region (thank you Ron Burgundy). But after a couple weeks or months at the gym, you start to take days off – just here and there! But watching Housewives of New York or going to happy hour becomes more important. One six-pack takes priority over the other, and the goal is lost.

the nuts and bolts…

You dream of quitting smoking. You want your clothes to stop smelling and your taste buds to regenerate. You want to be able to run a mile without coughing. You see the light at the end of the tunnel, but then you start to walk toward it. You do well the first few steps. But then you’re out for a few drinks and everybody’s outside the bar blackening their lungs without you. The desire grows and your steps start to slacken. You have one cigarette – just one! – and then you buy a pack again. Your last pack…then you buy another one, and the goal is lost.

the nuts and bolts…

Everybody always seems to see what’s in the distance rather than what’s right in front of us. We see the six-pack but not the 10,000 crunches and captain’s chairs. We see the song but not the chords and riffs that constitute it. We see the marathon but not the two pairs of shoes you go through to train for it. I see my book, but not the 500 pages that need to be written first.

perception vs. experience

We’ve all seen the battle. We’ve all experienced its effects. I don’t want to sound completely downtrodden, though, as many times the experiences do lead to a previously perceived goal. Dreams do come true. You hear about them all the time. These people (maybe you?) have braved the experience and gone on to what they initially perceived their life could be – albeit it never turns out how you think it will. Sometimes it meets expectations and sometimes it doesn’t. But before you find out if your dreams will measure up, you have to brave the nuts and bolts. You have to push yourself harder than you ever have.

Because what’s an accomplishment without effort? Sure, from an outsider’s perspective it looks like you’ve accomplished something noteworthy, but you know the truth of it. You know what went on behind closed doors. If you put “just enough” effort into it to get by, is that really fulfilling, or are you just playing the role assigned to you?

unreasonable happiness

We can’t just lie in wait, stagnant, tepid. We can’t wait on happiness – that’s not how the often-elusive emotion works. People always tell themselves they can be happy after they’ve climbed that hill or rounded that bend. They wait for milestones in life and decide that’s when they can become happy! Grass is always greener, right? After graduation, after you get that rock on your finger, after you get a job.

If you decide to live your life that way, half of it will be empty. You’ll be a walking shell, caught up in the whirlpool that is your mind’s fabrication of “life.” Do you really know what it’s like to live, to truly live, walking around like that? If you ask me (which you didn’t, but I’m telling you anyway), happiness is in the nuts and bolts of life. This blogger captures the essence of that message beautifully. It’s the stuff that normally may not register with your conscious mind until you realize in your old age what you missed.

You don’t need to bathe in money to be happy. You don’t need to be a hero to be respected. It’s the day-to-day living, it’s the mild memories, it’s the obstacles overcome, big and small – it’s the nuts and bolts. These all combine with millions of other facets of living that make up your life. Open your mind and don’t lose sight of what’s right in front of you. Some of us are too far-sighted for our own good. You never know, what’s right in front of you may be the secret to your happiness, whether that happiness lasts 60 seconds or 60 years. Don’t be afraid to taste those raindrops on your tongue. Don’t be afraid to open your eyes a bit more to the small wonders this life can hold.

You may be pleasantly surprised.


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2 Responses to “the nuts and bolts”

  1. Thomas Says:

    Congrats on discovering these things this earlier on in your life.
    So what about that guitar?

    • jeffhirz Says:

      Haha the guitar is a work in progress. At this point it’s not my priority so I treat it with type of mild neglect. Let loose on it the other night and it felt great, though, so I’m probably good for at least another two months 🙂

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