MAD DOG: Goals, They're Not Just For Soccer Players Anymore

We spend a lot of time trying to discover who we are and what we should be doing with our lives. Maybe not as much time as we do trying to have sex, sitting on hold for the next customer service representative who appreciates our business, or standing in front of the mirror trying to get kernels of microwave popcorn from between our teeth, but that doesn't mean it's any less important.It's a search for personal identity. A quest to figure out where we fit into the cosmos. But mostly it's a boon to self-help book publishers and tarot card readers everywhere. Even more importantly, it's almost single-handedly fueling the current economic boom. After all, if so many people weren't convinced that amassing money is the answer they'd realize that IPOs actually stands for Idiots Purchasing Overpriced Stocks.This search for personal fulfillment is nothing new. It's been going on almost since humans crawled out of the primordial sludge and wondered when soap would be invented. Of course back then personal growth wasn't the highest priority since there were other more important things to worry about, like having to keep warm, killing for food, and foraging for shelter. Kind of like the Donner Party in saber tooth tiger loincloths.Once the Big Three were discovered -- fire, the wheel, and the TV remote -- life became much easier. Suddenly we had leisure time on our hands, meaning we could finally pursue our spiritual side. This gave rise to Christianity, yoga, Tony Robbins, transcendental meditation, est, the Crusades, LSD, Zen, Yanni, The Psychic Friends Network, crystals, guys in bars asking "What's your sign?", and the Sixth Sense. No one ever said progress is always pretty.We started to realize that it was important to better ourselves, to use the talents we were given, and to set lofty personal goals. Unfortunately going on Jerry Springer to tell your wife that your name used to be Katerina, marrying a multi-millionaire because he likes the way you look in a swimsuit, and setting up a webcam so the world can watch the dust bunnies grow under your bed weren't the goals our mothers and fathers hoped we'd have.But times change, and with them so do our dreams. Take Tina Taylor, the woman from Cincinnati who was recently named "America's No. 1 TV Fan" by TV Guide. As a young girl do you think she laid awake nights dreaming of this while other girls thought about becoming an astronaut or being deflowered by the New Kids on the Block? Did her guidance counselor help tailor her education towards this goal, talking her into majoring in computer science so she'd know how to program her VCRs? Or was she, in fact, sitting in a lotus position in Nepal on the fourth day of a Taco Bell-free fast when her mantra suddenly veered from "Om" to "Om Improvements"?Whatever it was, it worked. Tina was honored with a trip to Hollywood, largely because her family has six TV sets -- including one with a 52" screen -- which according to her are on 24 hours a day, as well as five VCRs and a DVD player. The judges gave her the award saying they liked that she has a life beyond television. Yes, balance is a wonderful thing.It used to be that when we were growing up we were encouraged to aspire to greatness, such as becoming president. But not anymore. Not since we saw the size of President Clinton's legal bills and realized that no sex is worth that amount of money, Jennifer Lopez notwithstanding. With all the public scrutiny, pressure, and constant media hounding that comes with the job, no one in their right mind would want to be president. This, of course, says a lot about George W. Bush and Al Gore.This helps answer why children today have their eyes set on careers which are more attractive, more fulfilling, and more profitable, like basketball player, supermodel, and sixth member of 'N Sync. And who can blame them? There's no question it would be more fun to earn a living playing instead of working. Unfortunately, as I can attest, it's not easy. It turns out very few people can make a living playing computer solitaire.Even someone who's the best at what they do, like Billy Mitchell, has to have a day job. He's the guy who last summer scored the world's first perfect score at Pac-Man, accomplishing the feat a good fifteen years after everyone else forgot the game ever existed. He also holds the world's Donkey Kong record which gives him incredible bragging rights at family reunions. To make ends meet, Mitchell manufactures hot sauce in Florida. While this is far from the world's worst job -- like say, managing the Beef 'n Brew in New Delhi -- it's also not nearly as cool as being Leonardo DiCaprio's paid friend.We might as well get used to this. After all, if the average number of words in a 14-year-old's vocabulary has dropped from 25,000 to 10,000 since 1950 -- which it has -- it's only natural that some important words will be among those lost. It's a shame that ambition, reality, and obfuscation are among them. But all's not lost. At least this will help give the '00s a slogan which they sorely lack. Forget the Iron Age. Jettison the Industrial Revolution. We've officially entered the Snooze Alarm Age where we postpone reality, so you might as well sit back and enjoy yourself. At least until the alarm goes off again. But don't worry, you can always slap it and shut it off for another ten years or so.

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