Lessons on life and adventure from an aerobatic pilot, a motocross champion, and an octogenarian author
What happens when your best days are behind you? This has been a very real fear ever since I hit 30. My memory isn’t what it once was. My vision is deteriorating. And I’m pretty sure I’m shrinking.
I first met Marc when he was the recipient of a Barnacle delivery. I dropped off his outboard motor and spotted a framed picture of a Meyers Out-to-Win on his garage wall.
Nice, I said.
That used to be my plane.
Wow. Do you still fly?
Nah, he said. I just turned 80. I lost my high-pitch hearing many years ago. Before that, I owned ten different planes.
What was your favorite?
He shrugged a little. Maybe the Learjet. He showed as much conviction as if I had asked about his preferred dental floss.
What about the Meyers OTW? I asked. That must have been awesome!!
It got boring after a while, he replied.
It got boring. They all got boring.
Who on earth gets bored of a Meyers OTW? I asked him if he missed flying.
Nah. I used to race motocross too. No matter how exciting something is, it eventually gets boring.
Oh, man. If this guy got bored flying aerobatic planes and racing motocross, then retirement must be insufferable. After a lifetime of barrel rolls and hammerheads and whoops and doubles, captivity in an 80-year-old body would be agony. I felt so bad for him.
I told him that I, too, was a pilot, and he gave me a 1971 Cessna sales brochure to take home. He used to work as a Cessna sales rep. He told me some of his flying tales and said that he had written other stories, lots of them, but regretted that no one would ever read them.
I asked him if he knew how to self-publish on Amazon. He did not.
Well, we would have to change that.
He sat down at his computer and I guided him through Amazon CreateSpace. We began with a simple project, a book of recipes that he had compiled. Then I introduced him to WordPress and he set up his own web site (I helped a little tiny bit).
His stories needed some editing before they could be published, so I took a copy to rework later. I promised I would get his book published on Amazon.
That night, camped out in my car, I pulled up Marc’s text document and began reading. In his stories, he hopped freight trains like a hobo. He won AMA motocross races. He crashed six airplanes and countless land vehicles. I couldn’t believe that he lived to see 30, let alone 80.
Then the night sky began to show light, and I scrolled back to the top of the document. A quote prepended the stories: Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
I didn’t feel bad for Marc anymore. He didn’t stop flying because it became boring. He stopped because he had exhausted all possible combinations of bad judgment.
What’s the point of doing anything without the possibility of poor judgment? Marc hadn’t spent his youth in search of an adrenaline rush; he spent his youth in search of experience. An experience gets boring in the same way that repeating the 3rd grade gets boring. People embark on adventures to learn, and the satisfaction comes from acquiring knowledge and character, not cheap thrills.
Adventure is not about hiring a team of sherpas to guide you to the top of a mountain, nor is it about skydiving in a climate-controlled spacesuit. Adventure is allowing yourself the freedom to exercise exceptionally poor judgment, and having the wherewithal to turn those judgments into experience.
At 80 years young, Marc has embarked on a quest to market his writing through channels dominated by children. This, to him, is another adventure.
Marc wants to live forever through the distribution of his work. Marc wants to live forever because he knows his best days are not behind him. His best days are always right now.