Wednesday, May 22, 2013


How much friction do you have in your day-to-day life?

I have been thinking about this since listening to a discussion among sportswriters and others who are in close contact with top-level athletes.

It was pointed out that these stars --- Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Roger Federer, Floyd Mayweather, David Beckham, and the like, have almost no friction in their lives.

That is to say that the large and small aggravations that the rest of us put up with, in getting through our days, are virtually unknown to them.

They are surrounded by agents, coaches, personal managers, sports psychologists, trainers, and assistants whose jobs are focused on allowing nothing to distract the athlete from the task of winning. That includes avoiding any negative or critical comments that might threaten the star's self esteem.

Nor can the star be burdened by the need to make travel arrangements, schedule medical appointments, find time for grocery shopping, find a dinner companion or a one night stand, fill out his tax return, have his car or his executive jet serviced, go out for a haircut, make sure there is food in the fridge, drive his kids to and from school --- well, you get it.

He (and they are preponderately male) is buffered from life as we know it. Others grease the wheels for him.


The same may be said for major league movie stars, politicians, and CEO's. The sense of entitlement that this creates is a topic for another day.

Today, let's talk about the effects of friction as experienced to varying degrees by the rest of us.

Friction can be a long checkout line at the supermarket, or a bullying co-worker, or the enforcement of a silly rule, or work overload, or traffic gridlock. Aggravating, but that's relatively low-level friction, and most of us learn to cope with that, somehow.

Friction can be going to the drug store and discovering that your prescription has run out, which requires a doctor's visit to get it renewed, which requires time off work, which requires getting approval from a boss who has been complaining about your performance, and maybe the need to work a different shift to make up the time, which means you can't drive your kid to ball practice, which means asking your mother to do it, which means having to listen to her whine about you not visiting often enough, and so it goes.

Friction can be learning that your spouse or your child has a debilitating disease that will completely change your way of life, requiring you to devote yourself to her care, giving up most of the activities you shared, spending money you don't have on part-time caregivers, requiring so many hospital visits that it becomes impossible to keep your job, retreating into a small world centered on doctors and medical tests, fighting depression. Now consider that you have lost your car or your driver's licence, and live 100 km out of the city, where there is no Wheel-Trans.

Friction causes heat and wear when it builds up like that.

Our tempers rise to the explosion point, and then we say and do things that we'll regret later, perhaps with dire consequences. We hurt people, emotionally or physically.

Or we bottle it up inside, allowing it to grind us down, day after day, affecting our mental and physical health, shortening our lives.

At the extreme, friction can immobilize a person in the same way that an unlubricated wheel bearing can stop a train.

We all need to be alert to signs in our partners and friends that their friction is becoming too great, squeaky wheels and grinding gears that mean we need to reach for our oil can.


  1. I'm all stressed out after reading about all the friction I experience in my day-to-day life. I had no idea how beaten down I am :)

  2. Great topic, Doug. I had never thought of it that way. The hardest has to be looking after a sick family member with our Health Care system in the state its in. Imagine being free of that?? Anyway, it must be a real bummer for some Senators when the friction of the real world kicks in, eh?