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Personal essays

Flip Flop - Essay from Newsletter 41

Re-examining Resolutions

On Resolutions - again

I don’t know why, but this year I’m obsessed with resolutions and not making them.

“But Daniel,” you say, “I’ve already made my resolutions for the year.”


But statistically, you’ve either already broken one or more of them or will soon do so.


Resolutions are a time when we resolve to do or not do one or more things.

We decide to fix some pattern of exercise, weight-loss, reading more, watching less television,… something.

We choose something and resolve to do it.

But, these things that we resolve are not new ideas.

We’ve been meaning to move in this direction and the new year is a convenient marker that we use to commit or recommit ourselves.

In other words, the activity you plan to engage in - to learn a new language, play the piano, or meditate each day - the activity may be new.

The idea is not a new one.

What if instead you took this opportunity to look at the things you think are important to you and who you are and reassess them?


There is the famous Heraclitus quote that you can’t step in the same river twice.

The idea is that the water flows in the river so the water you encounter each time is different.

The deeper idea is that you too have changed.

You aren’t the same person who stepped down from the banks any more than the water that greets you is the same.

A 2500 year old quote that is just as true today.

Teams we root for

Years ago I introduced a Branford Marsalis concert where he was touring with his group Buckshot LeFonque.

He stood on stage wearing a Cleveland baseball uniform number 7.

“Who’s jersey is this?” he asked the crowd at one point.

“Kenny Lofton,” many shouted back.

“Nahhh,” Marsalis smiled. “This number belongs to someone you’ve never heard of.”

Major League Baseball was on strike. There probably wasn’t a person in the room who could say who, if anyone, was currently wearing number seven. And yet many considered themselves to still be fans.

Sunday, the Cleveland Browns clinched a playoff spot for the first time in nearly twenty years.

There are life-long Browns fans who remember the fun of the 80’s making the playoffs nearly every year. Those fans can tell you about the play that ended those seasons: red right 88, the drive, and the fumble.

But that was more than thirty years ago.

Like our river, the players and coaches flow through the team. They put on uniforms and wear numbers that others will soon put on.

In the nineteen years since the Browns were last in the playoffs they’ve had nearly thirty starting quarterbacks and more than ten head coaches.

Why do we continue to root for the Browns? They aren’t the team we fell in love with and supported all those years ago.

In fact…

A Different River

The Browns team that people root for today aren’t even the same Browns that went to all those playoffs in the 80s.

In the 90’s the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Baltimore Ravens.

You’d expect Baltimore fans would have been nicer about it. Their team, the Colts, had famously moved out of Baltimore in the middle of the night and set up shop in Indianapolis.

I know this is just sports - but there’s a lesson here.

Millionaires and Billionaires make these decisions for their own benefit and we shrug our shoulders and eventually fall in line and do things that make them more money.

We hate that Amazon and Walmart have put our local shops out of business and then…

…and then we order from them to save a dollar or two or to get that thing we want shipped overnight for free.

The name and colors

When the Cleveland Browns became the Baltimore Ravens, the league told Clevelanders, “you get to keep the colors and the name.”

And many fans looked at that as a victory.

Somehow that made it ok for their team to leave town.

The deal was that if we voted to spend millions of tax payer dollars on a stadium that would be used ten times a year on a prime piece of real estate along the lake for a team that would make the playoffs twice in the next twenty years – we could keep our colors and the name.

It’s the dad taking his adult kid camping and walking down to the river and putting his feet in, smiling at his kid and saying, “just like old times.”

And then the kid says, “dad, we’ve never been here before. We used to camp in Michigan.”

They argue and then the dad says, “I don’t care. It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s the same.”

Cognitive Dissonance

My friend Charlie pointed to this article in The Atlantic on Cognitive Dissonance which “describes the discomfort people feel when two cognitions, or a cognition and a behavior, contradict each other”.

It gets even worse, the article argues, when self is involved. This includes the way we see our self or when we make and invest in a decision.

“The minute we make any decision […] we will begin to justify the wisdom of our choice and find reasons to dismiss the alternative. Before long, any ambivalence we might have felt at the time of the original decision will have morphed into certainty.”

And so the dad insists it’s the same river.

We speak of “our” team and say things like “we won” or “the ref screwed us.”

We insert our self and now we are invested.

Once we are invested we root for a team that has nothing to do with the team we first invested in. The players, coaches, owners, even the stadium are all different.

We kept the colors and the name and, yes I’m SMDH, that turned out to be enough.


Kim talked about a religion class she took at John Carroll. The priest made them question their faith and why it was they believed what they believed. He tore down all of the habitual reasons that they considered themselves to be Catholics. He challenged the aspects of their faith that had been comfortable and necessary as children.

Once he’d done that, she said, she was ready to understand being an adult member of the church. In fact, it helped her separate her beliefs from her feelings about the church itself.

That’s what I’d like to suggest we do this time of year.

Look back at those things that we support because we came to them when we were another person and question why we remain.

I used to argue politics with republican friends. They felt passionately about things that were core to conservatism. They supported states rights, the military, limited government, and many more non-negotiable items.

Their party stands for none of those ideals any more. And yet they as vigorously justify all of the things they used to attack.

They don’t notice that their team moved out of town and the new team that kept the name and colors doesn’t resemble the old team in any way. And yet, somehow, it’s still their team.

For new years, I’m suggesting you don’t resolve to do the things you’ve always meant to do.

I’m suggesting as you step into that same river you notice how you and the water have both changed.

Maybe you make small adjustments to the things you hold most important.

Recommit to those that fit you at this moment, start to work on the new ones, and let go of the old ones.

It’s the most comfortable pair of flip flops you can put on.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 41. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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