YOLO!!!! You Only Live Once.
Oh do I get grief for that. And for my obsession with the fist bump – the exploding fist bump! So I thought I would take a moment to share with you the genesis of that.
Yep, it’s 9/11, so time for my annual homage to my great friend Mark Bingham, who was taken from us entirely too early 12 years ago. It would almost be impossible for any of you reading this, who likely know me, to not know of Mark Bingham. Mark was one of the heroes of United 93 who in a selfless last act of courage helped bring down the aircraft which experts believe had the US Capitol Building as its target.
Mark was one of my best friends. Now the great thing about Mark is you could probably ask 20 people and each of them would also say “Mark was one of my best friends,” such was the infectious, suck-the-marrow-out-of-the-bone approach to life and friends Mark lived. Back in 2001 I, along with Cal Rugby Coach Jack Clark and Cal Rugby Alum Jon Beck were interviewed for a story about Mark in the Daily Cal which you can read here.
One of the tough things about losing a great friend so young is you expect a certain arc in life. You selfishly expect to enjoy that person’s friendship and company, to experience the highs and lows, and that they will grow old with you and to share in all that life has to offer. When that’s taken from you, you feel a loss that’s more profound… and lonelier than you imagine it’s going to be.
I am sure you all have friends with whom you share some great memory that only you share. And at the simple drop of a word will make you laugh and connect. Mark and I had many of those but I think my favorite was bauble. Back in 1988, there was an SNL skit of the Winter Olympics with Tom Hanks playing a very gay ice skater; it was hilarious. At one point a very excited Dick Button is gushing about Hanks taming the ice when all of a sudden he goes stumbling because as Button exclaims “There’s a bauble!” So whenever Mark or I would trip or stumble we would both simultaneously say “BAUBLE!!!”
So back to the exploding fist bump – because it’s really not a fist bump without the explosion at the end! After 9/11 I made two commitments to myself to honor Mark’s memory; to let go of pettiness and to enjoy the hell out of life and make an impact. That first one, well let’s say I struggle with that one… I mean I try, but as anyone who has argued a point with me on California Golden Blogs will attest, I fail at it. Too often. Like I said, I’m trying! Life is just too short to let pettiness dictate who we are or how we live.
But the exploding fist bump, often accompanied by a smile and a YOLO! That’s my sort of daily, physical reminder that life is supposed to be fun. It’s meant to be lived and enjoyed and laughed at and sung along to and danced with and devoured and experienced… Because I am telling you right now, not one of those victims on the planes or on the ground or in the Pentagon or the World Trade Center planned on dying that day. But they did. And no one plans on getting killed in a car accident, or finding out they have terminal cancer, or losing a loved one to some tragic accident today. But that will happen. To thousands of people.
So what do we do? We live, that’s what. If you’ve made it this far and will indulge me, I’d like to share with you advice that Benjamin Ide Wheeler, one of the great presidents of the University of California, gave to an audience in Berkeley. It’s really informed how I approach life and why I so often throw away my dignity in the moment! He said that one should think of their life as the ocean. If you throw a tiny little rock in the water think of that as your impact. Those concentric circles that come out from the splash are the bands of people you impact. The bigger the rock, the bigger the rings of circles, the more people you impact. That’s sort of how I’ve approached life. I don’t know, maybe at the end it will have been a mistake, but I don’t think so. I jump into the water doing a great big cannon ball!!
That old photo up there of Mark and me… Even though it’s an awful photo of me, I love it because what it represents. It’s taken at a restaurant in Chicago during a crazy summer weekend that all started with a phone call on a Friday from Mark: ”Ken, let’s go to Chicago for the weekend,” and so we did. Got on a plane the next morning at 6AM… Went to a Cubs game. Had some great meals. Went to the museums. Went to some bars and stayed out entirely too late and were exhausted getting into the office fresh off our return flight on Monday morning. But man, what a weekend. And son-of-a-gun here I am today!
So that brings me back to the exploding fist bump. That simple little gesture is my tribute to Mark. It’s a reminder to not take life too seriously and to live my life to its fullest. So the next time I fist bump you – and insist you explode the fist with me – that’s why. And if it makes you smile – and even better laugh – despite yourself, then I’ve accomplished something that day. So today give me that fist bump, let’s see it explode and go ahead and say it…. YOLO!!!!
If you have your own great memory of Mark I’d love to hear it. And in honor of Mark, with all the hale and heartiness you can muster, GO BEARS!!!