My 80-year-old grandfather shared a bit of wisdom a few years back when we pulled up to a stoplight and watched two guys use the crosswalk. One guy was in his twenties; He slouched, wore baggy shorts, had a three-day bird’s nest of a beard and smoked a vape while a cleanshaven marathon runner in his mid to late fifties jogged passed him. After the light turned green my grandfather shook his head and said, “That boy is cutting to many threads.” The subtext of what my grandfather meant was the young man, in his opinion, is currently making too many poor life choices within his youth which will render him a failing future.
Now there are two things you need to know about my grandfather going forward: First, he comes from the generation of grit; The man grew up in 1940s where in south Louisiana if you didn’t work in the factory, you joined the army to get out of town. Second, after he married the love of his life (my grandmother, at the age of 19) he has spent over half his life owning all sorts of boats. During this time, he commonly used a tool called, ‘a Line’ or more commonly referred to as a ‘rope’. One of it’s most important uses on a boat is that of a lifeline when someone goes overboard. In this situation, you need to have natural trust in what you’re about to cast out to assist the saving of another’s life. Ropes such as this need to be dependable, withstand the weather and last a lifetime, but if you don’t coil it properly, hang it in the sun to dry and simply lay it around for others to trip over, it isn’t dependable.
So, what exactly makes a rope dependable? I think the answer lies in how it’s made. A rope, whether it’s cotton, nylon or linen is a simple series of twisted fibers which when woven further together strings a tight braid of thick yarn. It’s nothing more than a collection of tiny threads all interlaced together. However, that’s how my grandfather, in a metaphorical sense, sees how life is comprised – the choices in life we act upon are the threats of a rope which develop us into who the people we become… whether we know it or not.
My grandfather’s wisdom is a combination between Newton’s third law of action and the butterfly effect. Basically put, it translates to mean what we choose to do in life is incredibly significant and shouldn’t be brushed off; not only for the people around us, but more importantly for the well-being and accomplishment of ourselves. A similar piece of advice to the thread philosophy is, “You are what you eat,” or “Bird’s of a feather,” the list goes on. However, the thread philosophy infers that the seemingly involuntary and insignificant choices we’re faced with on a daily basis are the most important decisions in life.
Similar to how a rope is constructed with thin pieces of thread, you become the individual you are today through an incremental process of actionable choices and whether the result of your choice is applauded or rioted at, you like myself and the rest of the world are a product of those choices. So, when you wake up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror (as cliché as that is) will you continue to cut your threads or make an effort to interlace some new ones into the braid?