City Slickers is one of my favorite movies. It is a comedic and philosophical glorification of urban men trying to live out life’s meaning through the machismo of adventure travel. If you haven’t seen this film for some time, I recommend you take a peek at it during the holidays.
In this 1991 Billy Crystal classic, three friends decide to trade their briefcases for saddle leather to fill the emptiness in their lives. This film always inspires me to remember to keep my life balanced despite the ever present stresses of productivity, competition, and just plain constantly trying to figure out what’s the best thing to do next. Actually life is pretty hard, because we don’t have much guidance for how to respond to the ever-changing environment around us.
Many years ago, when my oldest son Adam was about 12, I told him, “I’m sorry to have to admit this, son, but your mother and I try to make the best decisions about you—but the truth is… we’re just making this up as we go along! You see, we’ve never been here before.” We all just get swept along in the river of life, and sometimes it’s hard to steer, and to remember what it’s all about.
The movie shows us a midlife crisis dad and husband who is just plain worn out by his job, his life, and his tedium. He and his wife reach a crisis point where she asks him to leave and “go and find your smile.” So, he and his two lifelong buddies spend the next two weeks being transformed from New York city slickers into real cowboys who bring in the herd under crisis conditions. One of the key moments in the movie is when Jack Palance, playing crusty old top hand Curly, tells Billy Crystal that there’s only one thing that’s important in life. What they learn along the way is that the one thing that makes life worth living may be different for each of us. For me, I try to live out the Golden Rule, and I find that I’m most satisfied when serving others—but without an occasional “recharge” I can get pretty ornery and my family starts to call me a curmudgeon. The thing that makes me smile is when, like those city slickers, I get a chance to sit on a fine horse under a big sky—or be with my grandkids.
Nonetheless, there are times that I lose my smile, too—when I get wrapped up into misplaced thinking that my stuff and my position are my foundation in life. So I want to recommend that you take a moment at the beginning of this New Year and think about where you need to go or what you need to do to find your smile in 2010!