The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Peter Drucker

If you’re near my age you know the song – you can visualize the explosion of energy, electricity, and emotion that was James Brown. Research for this title took about 30 seconds on the Internet. From Songfacts I learned that, “A ‘bag’ is slang for a way of doing something or a kind of lifestyle. In this song, Brown is singing about how he's come up with something new.” This article is about a new “bag” – me and my “new bag” and Jason who is just starting to design his new “bag” – our new lives and lifestyles.

The story that is this article has been about 50 years in the learning, three hours in its discovery and 30 minutes at this keyboard. I’ll try to explain. I grew up lucky – very lucky. I was born into a good family – an Ozzie and Harriet world. Although I didn’t know it at the time, we were better off than probably 98% of the population. We lacked financial wealth but we were very rich. We had our dysfunction but compared to others – we were a Norman Rockwell portrait of normal. My childhood was happy, safe, secure, faith filled, and positive. Life was good. (Maybe on reflection – that wasn’t the norm.)

At about age 12 when I stepped out of my tree house of innocence called my back yard and into a world of the new – I struggled. On reflection and with the luxury of 50 years of hindsight, I realize my “problem” wasn’t the world and it wasn’t me – it was how in my mind’s eye I saw me and the world. People would talk to me about all my potential – my gifts. I was gifted with a loving family, reasonably good intelligence, above average appearance, a safe neighborhood, great education, good friends, and innocence. Compared to the world I now understand – I lived in a “bubble.”

Unfortunately when you’re 12 years old and being held hostage by hormones, puberty’s onset, lack of confidence, and perceptions of reality substantially different from the real – potential is a terrible burden. The tendency is to compare yourself to others – not as they are but as you think they and you to be. This is the “grass is always greener” syndrome. It is also the admonition in Desiderata, “If you compare yourselves with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

After 62 years – I’ve finally discovered that happiness and significance - my greatest success and fulfillment - come not from what I “do” but rather from who I “be.” After all this time – I’ve learned that my challenge is to “be” the best Mike Manes I can. On the 24th of March 1971 I was drafted. This began my transformation from the poster boy for anxiety to a self-actualized adult – totally comfortable in my own skin. From a boy at 12 who feared everything; to an older guy that believes that, “Yes, I can.”

On the 39th anniversary of my induction to the Army, I met Jason. His Momma asked me to visit with him because he was struggling. We met and talked for 3 hours. In his own words Jason was, “anxious, frustrated, isolated, scared, and concerned.” In my own words – he was me. Jason was a mirror allowing me to see the Mike I was as a child. We talked – I reached out to him and he connected with me. He’ll be fine- I know it because I’ve lived it. I and others will stand with him until he embraces the possibilities that are him and his world. It will take longer than I’d like but it will be quicker than Jason can imagine. With a little help – “Jason’s gonna’ get a brand new bag.” He’ll be a Great Jason!

Copyright Michael Manes (March 30, 2010)

Go Back To Blog