During my time running and owning a whitewater rafting company, I had the opportunity to lease a beautiful piece of land at the base of Devil’s Looking Glass on the banks of the Nolichucky River. I was to meet the owner to discuss the location of our base camp building and to go over operation of some heavy equipment. Having arrived that day courtesy of an avocado green 1963 Plymouth Valiant, I certainly didn’t look like my vision of a successful man. The Valiant was a reliable car to ramble about in, but about the farthest thing from sporty or powerful. I yearned for one of those cool, four-wheel drive trucks. So, I told myself that I “needed” a new truck, because I would never be stuck, it would be great for hauling things, and it would make me more efficient. I had changed my own viewpoint, or PARAdigm, in a DYNAMIC way—by turning my emotional “want” for a new truck, into a “need.”
I call this mental ability to transform emotional “wants” into logical “needs,” Paradynamics. In this case, I had now built a “need” for a truck and transformed it into a goal to get one. What I did not know at the time was that to get the proper result from this ability, I would need to add positive thought, prayer, meditation, and actively listening to intuition. Did I really need that truck? No. Did I have the money to buy the truck? No. Was I willing to go into debt to achieve the instant gratification of owning something that I had not earned? Yes. Would this be bad for me? Yes, but I was blinded by the shiny thing. I thought, “But doesn’t almost everyone have a car loan?” Sure! But what may be right for others should not be a guidepost for me.
Paradynamics—the use of willpower to change your core paradigms—can change our lives for the better or for the worse. It can be used to improve our life and the lives of those around us, or it can destroy us. Unfortunately, I fell to the dark side before understanding how to appropriately use this tool. I could have avoided this by carefully listening to life’s lessons early on.
But on the banks of the Nolichucky, I was about to get one of those lessons. It would, however, be years before I really understood and learned my lesson.
Making my actions congruent with what was truly best for me was the furthest thing from my mind. At that moment, I was sitting in the shadow of a several hundred-foot-tall rock wall and listening to the sound of the water rushing over the rocks, thinking, “I am going to live on the banks of the river!”
Water has always been one of the things that defines me, and the more often I am on it or in it, the better I feel. Lying back onto the hood of my trusty Valiant, I relaxed and enjoyed the sunshine as I listened to the song of nature and dreamed of bright, shiny, four-wheel drive trucks.
Just then, a rickety-looking car turned off State Highway 81 and onto the gravel lane. I hoped that whoever this was wouldn’t take up too much of my time because Mr. Moss, the property owner, was due along at any moment.
The car was an Opal Cadet station wagon—a practical car, but not an inspiring or powerful one. My mother had owned one for years and had passed it along to me for a time. This one wasn’t in particularly good shape, and it stirred a considerable amount of dust as it came rattling to a halt on the gravel road.
An older gentleman stepped from the car and approached me. “Can I help you?” I remarked, indignant at being interrupted by something I deemed unimportant.
“Certainly, I am here to meet Nathan Sparks,” he said.
Stunned, I stammered, “You’re Mr. Moss?” Not sure exactly how to proceed, I chose to make small talk for a few minutes. But something was bugging me: that car just didn’t seem to fit the image of the man I had imagined. Mr. Moss was one of the town’s richest and most powerful people–and since I had just “paradynamically” rationalized that a good car equaled a good, powerful, and successful man, I could stand it no more. I asked, “Mr. Moss, with all of your money, you could drive any car you want. Why in the world would you pick that one?”
“Well son, I suppose you’re right,” he said. “I can afford any car I want to drive, but this one is paid for and it got me here safely. By not spending my money on fancy new cars, I have it available to buy nice pieces of land like this one. By owning this land, I can find folks like you that need to use it. It will produce income just by being here and will grow in value over time. It is a beautiful spot to come play in the river that will be here for me, and for my children and grandchildren. A new car, although nice, will not get me where I am going any better than this old one and will decrease in value every day I own it. I choose to ‘want’ things that will grow in value and bring me joy. Of course, if you want to spend your money on a new car that is your choice, just not in my opinion a good one.”
In the matter of a few words, Mr. Moss had given me a life lesson. But knowing isn’t the same as doing, and to know and not to do is not to truly know. For many years, all too often I found myself falling into the trap of valuing “wants” over “needs.” That led me to being trapped in work scenarios that took away from my time with God and family. By allowing my mind to act on those wants, I caused harm to those close to me. I am truly sorry and sincerely apologize to everyone who has ever encountered me in that state.
Most of my life has been about feeling good, at least temporarily—and seeing the world through the lens of immediate gratification. It seemed that if I had the nicest car, fanciest house, prettiest girl, fastest boat, and stylish clothes, then I would be successful man. I was repressing and denying my true feelings and ignoring my real needs by seeking to feel good in the moment. And when the excessive work and stress became overwhelming, I would rationalize that I had given enough for the day and call it “happy hour,” which truthfully is not very happy. With the help of alcohol, I would check out, withdrawing from those who loved me—focusing instead on my anger at why I was not getting out of life what I thought I truly deserved.
Addiction is not the answer to other addictions. I tried to rationalize and moderate my work addiction with alcohol in the evenings. When I couldn’t function well the next day, I developed an addiction to coffee. With no time to eat right or exercise, I became addicted to junk
food and slovenliness, rationalizing that I simply didn’t have time to take care of myself or my things. There was no time for self, no time for God, no listening to true intuition, no time to read and learn.
There was just the church of immediate gratification, and I was a devoted member. The harder I worked, the more stuff I gathered, and the fewer friends I had. The ensuing loneliness led me to create another addiction: false heroism. I wanted to be appreciated and would insert myself into situations where I was neither wanted nor needed, and force my solution onto the situation. No one appreciates that kind of hero, and they certainly don’t call on them when there is a real need. But, sitting on my Pyrrhic throne, I would console myself with the knowledge that I had saved the day and would wonder, “Where are all my loyal and appreciative followers?”
Life is not kind when we choose that course, and if that is the path you are on, please take a moment and reconsider. There is a better way. If you believe in God, pray; if you don’t, pray twice as much and spend some time meditating. Take the long view and the high road, considering first the consequences of actions before acting on them. Consider the words of Mr. Moss, who enjoyed doing good and building a lasting legacy for his family. He acted as an honorable and Godly man. Consequently, I never heard anyone speak of him with anything but kindness.
For the most part, far too many of us make decisions based on our emotions and then try to rationalize the decision with facts. “‘I want it’ so therefore ‘I need it’” is the wrong use of paradynamics. Instead, we could be in touch with and take care of our needs in healthy and honorable ways. What is really important is defining what those needs truly are.
Knowing begins with prayer and meditation, which can provide us with a well-founded “needs” list, if and when we are willing to truly listen. After learning my lesson, albeit the hard way, I took time to discover my true needs, and my priorities have certainly changed: God first, then my wife, then the rest of my family. While attending to these, I think of how important my health is to being absolutely and continuously available to those who truly need me. Everything else finds a way to sort itself out in the order that is best.
And my new motto is …