Nolli Secundus

Second to none; It is a commonly used phrase among Latin scholars for those who are always at the top of their field, never second. It also happens to be the motto of a great many military units across the world. In America, as George Patton told his troops, we always admired those who came first whether it was a big league ball player or the champion marble shooter in the neighborhood. Today he would probably have said the best skateboarder.

But how many neighborhood champion skateboarders have come last in the city finals and how many city champions have come last in the state and so on. The answer is, a lot.

The lesson here is one I learned from my father when I was about ten and learning the trade of being a catcher in baseball: No matter how good you think you are there is always someone better, smarter or more clever. As for fame you’re only as good as your last play and never as good as they’ll expect you to be. Thus, nolli secundus becomes a phrase which may connote only a moment in time and place. The wisdom from this is two-fold: put aside the opinions of others for human nature is fickle; and always do the best you can in the moment, whether it ends up being enough is up to history to decide, but don’t stop doing.

And speaking of doing the best you can in the moment–Where should our energy be directed? What are our goals? What resources do we need? Caught up in the daily chores of life it is difficult to find time to think downline but it is necessary. Do a goal setting exercise with someone you trust. Be realistic, but make it a stretch and make the effort not about yourself exclusively. Think bigger. If the current political or economic situation is bothersome ask what you can do as an individual to help change it. Remember all politics is local. It takes time to effect change but change must start with action and that action has to be by you and those like you. The easiest way to begin change is to adhere to the two adages of sagacity found in almost every culture. What you do is your responsibility, not someone else’s; and treat others the way you would be treated. Remember hope without action is nothing. Do not expect a Deus Ex Machina; you must be the engine of change.

“Illegitimi non carborundum” is a mock Latin expression for how you must respond, properly in Latin it is “Ne nothi tere te.” Your agenda, your action, your decisions, your responsibility. Do what you can, where you can and when you can. So be about it.

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