Don’t Be Like Uncle Rico

by Brad Isaac on July 9, 2006

Unclerico Everybody over 30 knows an Uncle Rico.  I hope you are not one of them because if you are you will lead a life of longing and constant disappointment.

In case you don’t know, Uncle Rico is one of the oddball characters in the popular movie Napoleon Dynamite. 

For those who haven’t seen the movie, Uncle Rico is stuck in the past.  He longs for his "glory days" of high school where he was on the football team.  In one scene, he asks his nephew "Do you ever wish you could go back?"  Throughout the movie he tries everything to recapture his past including buying a time machine off the Internet that leads to some painful outcomes for him and Napoleon.


I’ve known a number Uncle Ricos in my life.  A former cheerleader whose parents told her "High school is the high point of your life," who took what they said to heart.

After graduation I remember her saying "It’s all downhill from here."
And when I ran into her recently I believe she still felt the same
way.  She was 75 lbs. heavier and couldn’t wait for the 20-year high
school reunion to "see everybody again."  Maybe I am getting a bit too
analytical but I don’t consider my high school classmates "everybody."
Sure, I have some friends from high school.  We had some good times,
but they are not ‘ everybody.’

I recently touched base with another friend from high school while I
was traveling.  He asked how I could have moved away so many years
ago.  "Brad, Everybody (There’s that
‘everybody’ word again!
)we knew is from here!  I still hang out with
Phil!  I married Renee who used to ride the bus with us.  And Phil
married Cathy who was a sophomore when we were seniors." 

"That’s cool man." I said.  However I didn’t remember any of those
people.  He then asked if I married anyone from high school.  "No, I
married my wife Kim after we met when I was 25."

He seemed disappointed I am not more involved with friends from high school.

When I hung up the phone, I told my wife he had "really creeped me
out."  In high school this guy was one of the people other guys wanted
to be.  He had good looks, girlfriends, and he was fun to be around.
Now he’s seemingly depressed it’s all over.  He told me he had gained a
lot of weight and hadn’t been taking care of himself.   In his own words "I
wouldn’t recognize him."  He also said he took up smoking and only had
his weekends with old high school buddies to look forward to.

If not obvious, the point I am making is these are the best days of your life.  If only you treat them that way.

All you’ve got is today.  Tomorrow it will only be a memory – just like
high school.  Don’t think back about your past and
believe life will never be that good again.  Today is the day to look
at your future and think times will be even better! 

You see, if you have the attitude the best days are over, why continue
a path toward a successful future?  What difference would success make
if the future is good but not as great as the glory days?  You’d never enjoy your success!

Only by developing an attitude of optimism in your future is the way to
ensure you will enjoy every day of your life.

So how do you build optimism in your future?  Allow yourself to dream
big dreams.  Don’t wish to go back; become determined to move forward
into a better place.

Ask yourself what would you need to be, have, and do to achieve the
same happiness you had before.  What would it take to increase your
happiness beyond what you had in the past?

Once you have your answers then make plans for their accomplishment and get to work.

Don’t be like Uncle Rico.  He ends up back living in his conversion van in the desert – throwing footballs at his camcorder.

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July 10, 2006 at 9:26 am

This is a wonderfully encouraging post for four reasons; 1.)I recently watched the movie and I know exactly what you are talking about. 2.) I’ve heard people say that high school or college is the best years of your life. 3.) I recently created a blog-website to address this issue and myth. 4.) I know from personal experience this is not true. A few years a ago I decided to turn the tide by getting into shape, furthering my technical knowledge and starting my own business.

Now let’s go out there and throw steaks at Uncle Rico!

July 13, 2006 at 12:46 am

“Life is long if you know how to use it”

i’m still in college, and i can easily picture myself looking back, at some point, going “that was the climax of my life. it all went down-hill from there”

of course, it doesn’t have to end up that way. these days are about drinking and getting drunk and… uh, alcohol. that’s fun. but at some point, gotta realize it’s time to move on, find pleasure and joy in other things. i believe that happiness comes in different forms at different stages of our lives. there are always new things to appreicate. such as beer from other countries… no wait, that’s not what i meant.

but yea, you get the point.

ks July 13, 2006 at 2:48 am

fantastic article… this is one those things that most of us live with but fail to treat it like a problem … thanks for bring it out of my unsubconsious mind.

July 13, 2006 at 7:28 am

Will, funny post. :) and I agree with you happiness does come in different forms at different times of our lives. (coding is my “kegger” now.. kidding!)

July 13, 2006 at 7:46 am

Brad, great post and wonderful thoughts. Don’t forget about Al Bundy from Married With Children. He spent his sitcom life reliving the glory days of high school football.

I personally hated high school. I was bored out of my mind, I was nobody, and I couldn’t wait to grow up and get out of there. I graduated, joined the Navy, and haven’t looked back since. I’ve had quite a few slumps and stumbles since then of course, but the past is behind me. The future is where all the adventure lies.

Lisa July 13, 2006 at 3:16 pm

I did love this movie, and I’ve met many men very similar to Uncle Rico, and I run as fast as I can.
I did move away from my small hometown after highschool, and I do live in the here and now, but I must confess, I couldn’t wait for my reunion. Mainly because I still do cherish many of those friendships and memories, and wanted to see my old friends. That isn’t to say that I don’t value and cherish what I have now, but the past does play a role in who we are today. I guess the trick is not to get stuck there. You can move on, and still cherish special memories and friendships.

July 13, 2006 at 3:30 pm


Nothing wrong with looking back with a smile. Just looking back with a longing that things will never be good again is what I’m getting at.

I have my 20 yr. high school reunion coming up in the fall. (Am I really that old? Dang!) I am looking forward to it. I don’t know if I’ll recognize anyone or not.

Joey July 14, 2006 at 12:25 am

The scary thing is that I can see myself turning into Uncle Rico. While I’m not pining for the days gone by, I am, however, trying to find the motivation I lost and seem to failing. I keep looking and saying “How can I…” instead of “I wish…”

July 14, 2006 at 8:21 am

Joey, its good that you are thinking about it and asking questions. Like Jim Rohn would say, you probably need some good reasons to break out of your current situation..

Are you comfortable? It is difficult to motivate comfortable people. To do that, you have to get ‘fed up’ with something and want to change it come hell or high water.

So my advice is get fed up!

Joey July 14, 2006 at 11:36 am

Brad, that’s a great idea. Thank you. Now I’ll finally open that Visual Studio box and install the software and open a book.

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