4 Rules For Coattail Riders

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June 13, 2010 by David Gillaspie

My younger brother is an athlete, a former football, baseball, wrestler sort of athlete.  He travels.  A lot.  I don’t see him often and when I do he looks a little tired. 

And he should.

Look at your family and friends, the people you have a mental image of.  Does the image match reality.  If they look a little tired maybe it’s because they are carrying more weight, like my brother. 

I’m not talking about weight as in pounds.  Maybe they carry the weight of expectations; maybe they carry the weight of others living through them.

My brother carries enough weight since I live through him.  It’s not fair to him, either, but our Dad said that once he turned forty he’d quit his insurance job to teach and coach.

My brother took him literally and has been a teacher and coach for many, many years in places far, far away.  Ever since he started that I’ve been riding his coattails and he hasn’t known it until now. 

Does the weight gets lighter from now on?

Do you have a family member with a life more exciting than yours?  Is their life worthy of latching on to?  Here’s the checklist:

1.  They must marry their high school sweetheart and live in a lifelong love match of mutual support and admiration. 

Did you marry your high school honey?  Should you dump your wife and chase her down now?  Or is it better to live that dream through others?  If you didn’t have a girlfriend in high school, and you still don’t, the answer is yes.  If you are married, and your high school honey is married, take the vicarious route. 

If it adds extra weight to a family member or friend, don’t worry.  They are strong.  How strong?  If they married their high school girlfriend, and are still married years later, they are Superman strong.

2.  They must be in an occupation that has intrigued you over your lifetime, and be good at it.

Are you doing the work you were born to do?  Should you quit your job and pursue that work tomorrow?  Or is it better to watch someone else receive the accolades and awards and induction into the hall of fame their occupation reserves for the best of the best? 

Again, jump on those coattails.  They are moving so fast with so many others trailing in their wake that they won’t notice an extra rider.

If you must do more, then satisfy your ambitions through this tidy quote: People do things.  If they can’t do, then they teach.  If they can’t teach, then they teach teachers. 

Ask yourself, What do I do?  Who learns from you?  Who learns from you and passes it on?

(I did a training session recently with a young man getting back in shape.  We lifted then walked a really steep hill on a road called Bitchview.  During the walk we talked about how things work and how they don’t work.  We ran into a pal of mine in the neighborhood and I introduced them.  My neighborhood pal said many of the same things I’d said.  I went from sounding smart to sounding like a copy cat quoter, since I get good ideas from the pal.  Don’t be afraid to pass good things to others.)

3.  They must live in an exotic locale and thrive there.

If you live through others in your community, you are just being lazy.  If someone lives thousands of miles away you have an excuse, which is: If you lived there you could do the same thing as them.  Tell yourself that, but don’t believe it.  If you lived anywhere else, you’d still be doing what you’re doing now. 

Living through others is more an act of imagination than money in the bank.

Do you love the sun, but live under clouds?  Do you love water, but live in the desert?  Do you love the mountains, but live in the valley?  There are coattails waiting for you to jump on, lives waiting for you to live through.

Word of caution: if you tell someone you are living through them, they’ll get tired and may shake you off.  If you are riding someone’s coattails and don’t help out, they won’t be happy knowing it.

4.  You must make time to celebrate the life of those pulling the weight.  Go the extra mile, spend the extra few hours, learn more about them when the opportunity comes up.  Show some interest and you’ll lighten their burden.  They might even invite you to ride their coattails.  This doesn’t mean you need to confess to riding them all along.

It does mean saying thank you.

Has someone made you a better person?  Don’t be afraid to thank them.  It sound like this:

“Thank you.”


“I owe you one.”

“Good job, man.”

Or best of all, “I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing.”

Then hang on.


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