Monthly Archives: December 2010

My Very Best Piece of New Year’s Advice

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I was explaining to my teenage daughter yesterday what a tough year 2010 was for most people, by way of an example from our own life. Here we were, driving on the freeway in my old Honda, heading down to San Francisco. On the back window of my car was a big white “11” on a pink piece of paper, a temporary registration tag from the DMV. Consequently, the entire way down I was being extra good on the road and keeping an eye out for the CHP, who could reasonably pull me over at any time asking why my registration was out of date.

“You remember that fender-bender you had in my car last January, Jojo?” I asked her. Yes, she replied sheepishly. “Remember how I thought I’d taken care of all the paperwork and repairs and spending a new fortune on your insurance, by the end of May?” Yes, she remembered that too. “And then how in August I found out they were not letting me re-register my car until I had all kinds of other inspections done? And then I paid for all those and sent them their paperwork in September, but here it is the end of December and I am still waiting for the actual registration tags?” Oh yes, she knew all too well about the incredible tide of incompetence that her accident had unleashed.

“Well, that is exactly what 2010 has been like for almost everyone I know. You have setbacks that you expect to move through fairly easily, but instead they take 84 times longer than they normally should, and no matter how hard you try they just grind on, getting worse and worse, until either they are good and ready to be over or you die of exhaustion, whichever comes first. That, my dear, was 2010.” She understood perfectly.

On the radio today I inevitably wound up talking about dreams and predictions, because it was my last show of the year. If I’d had a guest or callers I would have asked for their new year’s predictions, but since it was just me I started talking about what I thought 2011 was really going to be like.

The first thing I thought about was last night, driving home by myself from the City, and coming across the blinking yellow “Flooded” signs blocking the road, because of all the recent rain. I thought that the road was probably passable since it had been clear all day, but wasn’t sure—and it was pitch black and freezing cold out, so I didn’t want to make any tragic mistakes.

There was a car pulled over by the side of the road, and I sidled up to it and lowered my window. Inside were two or three kids, probably Alex’s age, either stoned or just young and stupid. I asked whether they’d tried the road yet, and they said no. Then the guy driving says, “I just saw a shooting star. Do you think that’s a good omen?”

Without even thinking, I said, “Definitely. I’m going to give it a shot.” “I’m following you!” he called as I pulled away from them, squeezed past the signs, and started down the road. Of course, that meant he tailgated me the entire mile-long, slow journey down the road because he didn’t know any better, but that is a minor side point.

The real point of the story is that I didn’t even hesitate before declaring the shooting star a good omen. That is new this year, the unquestioned assumption that all omens are essentially good. It ties into a dream I had 6 years ago that maybe I’ll talk about someday, but was basically about interpreting an omen positively when privately I thought it might go either way and probably involved lots of bad news regardless.

This very difficult year has been full of good omens, and great things have happened, or have started to happen, to lots of people, myself included. The thing I have become most aware of, as I struggled through this year’s challenges, is that everything can change in a second. Luck is basically random, which means that if you’re having lots of what you consider bad luck, the longer you keep going the more likely it is that your luck will change for the better.

It’s not like I knew anything about the shooting star that kid saw, it’s just that I believe our best move is always to accept the omen as a gift. If nothing else, it means we are paying attention, we recognize an omen when we see one, and have the presence of mind to ask what its impact will be in our own lives. Especially in 2011, I think that kind of behavior is the absolute key to success.

The hardships of 2010 will not evaporate on January 1, and the dreadfully slow processes of change will still be with us in 2011, but there will be real opportunities opening up, doors suddenly swinging wide that we have been banging on for months if not years. The ones who will notice, and be able to act, are the ones who keep going because they know it’s just a matter of time before the tide turns. So pay attention, don’t let the bastards (or the DMV) get you down, and remember that the omen is always a gift.