Albert Einstein was in his later years. A young journalist was granted a rare interview by Einstein, the interview to take place at the elder physicist’s home. After the journalist arrived at Einstein’s home, he was offered a tour, including a view of the study where Einstein spent a good part of his days – still grappling with his theory of everything.
On a window sill in the study was a telescope, and apparently not much of one. Surprised that a scientist so well connected to the cosmos would have a lesser telescope to study the movements of the stars, the young journalist questioned Mr. Einstein,
“That??? That’s what you study the stars with Mr. Einstein?”
To demonstrate what tool is primary to any study, Einstein softly tapped his index finger upon his forehead and explained,
“That!!! That is what I study the stars with!”
True or not, that tale remains one of the most important lessons I have learned thus far in these cosmos. That I learned it young, I am grateful. That I immediately had an analogous place to apply it in my own life, was key in my understanding the value of that lesson. The lesson, that state-of-the-art is much more internal than external, still feeds my soul daily in this age of exponential advancements in everything from communications, to interactive entertainment, to the foods I eat and to the toys I play with.
That tale of Einstein was shared with me by a golf pro in Denver when I was 13 years old. Jay has earned his keep for 30 years teaching people how to hold, swing, and use a club, that they score a better score. Jay had always strived to teach his students that in golf, the mind is much more powerful than the most advanced golf club, and primary to the best outcome. Each month Jay offered himself and his students a reminder of this – an aesthetic lesson in priorities.
One Friday per month Jay played one round of golf with a set of clubs he bought from K-Mart in the early 1970’s. Each month that round of golf, pushed by those K-Mart clubs, would net my friend a score of 76-78. Other days, on the very same course, with his expensive custom clubs, Jay would usually shoot below par; a 71, plus or minus, depending on the day. Not a huge difference when one considers the disparity in the cost of, and technology behind those state-of-the-art clubs.
Still, golfers of lesser skill regularly seek out the most technologically advanced equipment to better their game – attempting to buy success, by way of the thinking of others. In many cases though, those better clubs do little, if nothing to improve the common golfer’s game. For these folks have yet to tap their finger to their head and said,
“That!!! That is what I play golf with!”
Lessons Learned From Einstein To Nine Iron
I now own a gym, so I use it. My gym is state-of-the-art – for me. Others might call it crude, laughable, or both. Other times when I have not owned a gym, I have been a gym member. Some gyms I have joined have been outfitted with the most advanced equipment available; technology which might be found in the hands of world class athletes. Others gyms I have used more resembled dungeons, with equipment made from the scraps and leftovers of other machinery gone bad. In either case, I have always used well, whatever equipment I was dealt.
Once, I didn’t have a gym at all. I was a crewman on the US Coast Guard Cutter Acushnet, a 213 foot ship with a crew of 75, and there was no room for a gym onboard. Still, during oceangoing patrols that often lasted months at a time, I granted myself my daily workout Einstein style, having remembered that lesson I learned so many years earlier.
I used my head and created a gym from my environment, doing proper pull-ups from water pipes overhead. I did lunges and pushups on deck, and curls and presses with anything from links of anchor chain to tool boxes belonging to the ship’s engineers. I made up and performed challenging movements that I called exercise, with anything I could find on that ship that I was strong enough to lift. These were some of my best state-of-the-art workouts.
State-of-the-art is much less what is used, and much more about how it is used in any endeavor – exercise included. The name on the equipment and the technology behind that name may be advanced, but brand name and improved technology are a poor substitue for improved thought, and usually much more than any of us really need to accomplish the task. Rather than trying to get more from your workout by spending more on technology, or seeking out the latest and greatest equipment, just stop, place your finger tip to your head, and let your next workout begin there – regardless of the tools you have to work with.
The whole world is a gym if you are willing to think, and explore. Be well. rc