Friday, October 30, 2009

Motivation

Motivation is the key.

I find that the tasks I have to do don't really change, but the motivation behind them can. I can do something because I have to do something, I can do something for grudging reasons, or I can do something because it will serve a greater purpose.

Motivation is the key.

Why am I doing what I am doing? Too often it seems like it is out of habit or out of perceived necessity. In some cases - work for example - I will continue to have do the tasks, but I can change the reasons for doing the tasks.

Necessity is a poor long term motivation tool. It leads to shoddy work and shoddy activities because everything gets put to the level of "Good Enough". On the other hand, I've been in the situation of pouring excellent work down an endless tunnel and having it wasted and myself exhausted and drained.

I need to see the next two steps - not only the "Why am I doing this (beyond necessity, of course)" but the "What will this activity or item contribute beyond the immediate reason I'm doing it?"

For example, I practice Iaido not only because I enjoy it and it's an excellent low impact sport and a good workout, but because it is teaching me things about myself, reacting to situations, and how I present myself in life. I enjoy it (so I'm motivated to practice and go), but I'm motivated also because I can see what else I am getting out of it.

How do I translate that into my everyday activity? To the extent that I can do that is the extent to which I will achieve excellence in my life - and motivation.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Administrivia

New Home weather - at least fall weather - is seeming to mirror my moods of late: something with a chance of change.

I have been struck again this week with how I am dealing with stress and my work environment. I'm not sure why the change has occurred - last week, I felt confident, armed with my list of tasks as I checked them off. This week, there is a major loss of momentum, as I struggle to do the most mundane of tasks while freaking about the state of my industry (something which I cannot impact, by the way). I had alluded to a sense of powerlessness yesterday - that feeling seems to continue on.

In the midst of this, where is my faith in God, the One who says "All things work for good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose", the One who is sovereign over the whole universe? How do I incorporate that into my daily life - it's fine to say "I believe God is in control" but hard (at least for me) to implement that into a day of paperwork and meetings of seeming little import - the horror of bureaucratic limbo, generating things that generate other things that end up in a box stored away.

As Otis often reminds me, I am to be a light - but I struggle with the fact that I don't just want to be, I want to do/product something where the output is something meaningful, not just useless administrivia to eventually (or not so eventually) be boxed up and shredded.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stressed

I need to find a new way to handle my stress level.

I have been fighting an increased sense of powerlessness in my life, a sense that I much of what I do on a day to day basis has little or any impact on the outcome of my day, my life, or my output. Yesterday reached what seems to have been a temporary climax - and I melted down near the end.

This cannot continue.

Here is my dilemma: I am in a position on several levels of my life where I am responsible for decisions and outcomes but seemingly have very little power to implement anything to change them - more of a "Here's what you will do" option is presented. In the very worst cases, I end up acting as cover; in the best cases, it seems like I am acquiescing to choice A - or choice A.

My response to this point has been to revert to those things I can control - typically food, but sometimes anger at some nebulous "thing" which I can combat. Neither of these are particularly helpful or useful.

So what do I do?

I can counsel myself to only worry about the things I can control, but that feels like nothing at this moment. I can counsel myself to be bold and sail into the morning breaking doors and taking names, but that will not get the results I desire. There is a third thing here, a thing which touches on one reason I went with the Firm: Control of my own destiny.

Yes I know, there were plenty of things we couldn't control (although how helpful it would have been!), but there was a sense that I could control a great deal of the occurrences in my day: what we did, what results we could harvest, even (though apparently to an illusionary extent) what the direction of our life would be.

How do I use this stress? How do I deal with it? How do I take control, starting with the little things, and moving on to bigger things?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday Monday

Yesterday was just one of those days - one of those "There's a pall hanging over the building and I can't quite seem to shake it" days. Part of it could have been the weather, of course - a dark blustery day that made it seem like 0600 until noon. Part of it could have simply been the fact that once again, the weekend seemed far too short (although in fairness, at least weekends feel like weekends now and give me a separation from work).

I think a great deal of it was due to yet another announced merger in my industry and the resulting expected layoffs - with this second one in approximately two weeks, 27,000 + layoffs are expected. I'm not really sure what attracts me to such news - a morbid interest, or simply remembering the pain each and ever time I read of a layoff - but that, combined with a general mood of futility, made for a long - and not productive -Monday.

The other thing I found nagging at my mind is significance. Watching the tide of paperwork rise and then recede from my desk, I was reminded again of the significance of doing something that matters. These papers that I agonize over, cajole for signatures and corrections, and carefully preserve from harm will eventually get thrown into a box, placed off site, and eventually destroyed. The materials that they represent will be consumed, perhaps in testing for the discovery of a major cure, but just as likely for experimentation which will again be forgotten.

I'm finding that as I go, life is going faster and faster not slower, and my need (can we say need?) for performing something of significance becomes deeper, if for no other reason the realization that most of this life consists of dust blowing in the wind, and I am so often too dense to grasp the spiritual realities around me. It makes for an interesting paradox: trapped in a whirlwind of the transient which obscures the permanent.

In such moments, how does one focus?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Evident to All

"Meditate on these things, give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all." - 1 Timothy 4:16

If we are to live the missionary life in a world that at best is disinterested and at most is hostile, how am we to interpret this? "Evident to all" would suggest not just those who are Christian (who would understand) but those who are not.

It seems that this is a promise as well (if you're curious, the preceding verses 12-14 call for Timothy to be an example in word, conduct, faith, love, spirit, faith and purity, and to give attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine), that if we meditate on these things and give ourselves entirely to them, our progress will be evident to those around them - an evidence of the Spirit at work in our lives.

Evidence -the thing that so often our testimony lacks. How often have I been guilty of saying one thing and doing another, giving lie to my "Christian" testimony by my actions?

How do I fight against this? I believe that Paul gives us the method. If we are meditating on something (i.e. thinking about it all the time, dwelling on it - see yesterday's post) and giving ourselves entirely to it (really committed to implement it, trying to put it into practice on a daily, even hourly basis), then we will move in the direction of what we consumed with. And the evidence of that change will indeed be right there for everyone to see - it is easy to argue with words, but it is hard to argue with a changed life.

Now the hard part: if I am willing to commit myself with intensity to temporal goals, why do I so often lack the same intensity for eternal goals?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Repeat and Commit

When was the last time I really committed to a goal?

I'm reading The Instant Millionaire by Mark Fisher. I've read the book before actually, so this is more of a reacquaintance with it. Overall I enjoy it (the whole subculture of success stories written as parables is an interesting one) although there are things I think are...well, a bit hokey or even wrong (surprise - me have an opinion!).

Last night I was going through a part where the Instant Millionaire is relating to the Young Man his "secrets". One of them, he states, is that you need to pick a goal, pick a date, and then repeat that goal and that date every day until it burns itself into your brain. Your brain ("the unconscious") will take that input, like any other input, and begin to process it. At some point by essentially hard wiring it, the mind will become convinced that it can.

As I mentioned, I've read this book before so the concept was not foreign to me. But just for fun, I thought I'd try to exercise. So I did it: I picked my goal, I picked my date, and I started repeating it verbally x amount of times a day.

The thing that hit me this morning after I did it was the sudden sense of being committed to that goal, to doing that. Which made me then think "How have I committed to goals in the past? Have I been?"

What is the process of commitment to a goal? I can think of scores of things that I have wanted to have or accomplish as goals, but very few that gave me the sensation of what I have experienced over the last few days - again, that sense of commitment, the sense of "I can". Is it as simple as fooling your mind, or is it something about the process of putting the parts together (goal + time frame) that does it? Yes, of course I know thinking it is not the same as doing, but I also have plenty of experience knowing that without truly being convinced you can, you never will.

And if it's that simple, why haven't I done it more?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Meeting Fear

Yesterday afternoon, within my last 1.5 hours of work, an issue came up - the sort of issue that leaves you dreading coming in the next day because of the e-mails you fear will be in the box and the meeting you inevitably know will be coming.

Yes I know, this is what I get paid for. At the same time, it has been an interesting item to mull over as Syrah the Mighty and I went for our walk this morning.

Initially the thought discussion was all about the (almost inevitable) meeting, where suggestions would be made that we were withholding information, why didn't we bring this up earlier, this affects the timeline, and was this really a big issue? The mind instantly races, finding counter arguments to each and every point, try to defend my concerns, wondering who I can enlist as an ally, and what impact this will have on my career there.

And then my mind did a yottsu te hanasu - a "win by four hands" technique discussed by Miyatmoto Musashi in A Book of Five Rings where he says when opponents are equally matched (as in wrestling), to drop that strategy and win by some other means. My mind went off completely on a seeming tangent: "Why are you so concerned about this and what they think about you? Why are you so afraid and tense with this?"

"What do you mean?" I asked my mind.

"Simply that it seems your focus is on the wrong place. Sure, people will be unhappy and sure, they will say your over reacting and maybe even blame you. But the real issue is your fear."

"My fear?"

"Your fear. Can they physically hurt you? No. Can they spiritually hurt you? No. Can they emotionally hurt you? Possibly, but that's you allowing them to hurt your feelings. The issue is your fear - you're afraid that they will do these things, and you're afraid that this will impact your career."

"Well it might."

"Yes, it might -at least at this company. If that's the case, you have two other questions to answer: What can you do to alleviate that fear, and how do you remove that power from them?"

I thought for a minute. "Hmm. I suppose I can alleviate the fear by ensuring that I am constantly at the top of my knowledge base and a resource. It won't change the situation of course, but at least it will alleviate the fear. As to the second, I'm not sure. What can I do?"

My mind smiled (or I think it did - it's hard to interpret facial expressions of the mind). "Again, two thoughts. The physical one is difficult but easy to say: make sure you reach a position in your life where that is not possible. The mental one is less easy: deny them the power."

"The power?"

"Your fear is based on your perception that they won't like you, won't value you, will mock you, will not value you or your work. The reality is their opinion does not change your self worth. Even it you are overridden, it still doesn't change that - unless you let them change that in your mind. So many other people have no problem acting or expressing their opinions simply because people that suffer from fear like yours allow them to do so. When will you face your fear?"

It has me thinking anyway - if people cannot do physical, spiritual, or emotional harm to me, why do I fear them?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Man of Twilight

"I can live out of my imagination instead of my memory." - Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I have been thinking a lot of the past lately, especially of how I act in day to day life. I seem to be caught with two models, neither particularly helpful: one the somewhat overly silly and perhaps a bit over the top guy (because that's how you got attention), the other one the serious fellow who took to heart a manager's comment that one needed to "act" like management if one wanted to be management. In both cases, these behaviors are seemingly driven by people and circumstances long gone - a sort of "Night of the Living Dead Behaviors".

This comes up in the context of being in New Home, where literally no-one knew me when I arrived. On the one hand I am relishing the freedom of being able to create my own image; on the other hand, I'm alarmed that the image seems to be drawn from two wells, neither of which may be particularly useful or even healthy at this point.

And then this morning, I read Stephen Covey's quote. Or to move it over to the Christian realm, I can live in Christ instead of out of memory.

Somewhere buried in here is a third fellow, neither totally over the top nor totally serious, the man that wanders in the twilight of my imagination. He occasionally comes out, but often seems to take a back seat to those other two. Who is he? He largely seems tied up with living a Christian life but not on the terms of the world, being forced into the mold of what a "Christian" should act like (that thought is a concept rich for meditation). He is that hearkening back to an older, nobler, more honorable sort, the compilation of those that I read of and loved (and still do): John Carter, Walter Scott's heroes, The Forty Seven Ronin, Knighthood in general, the Irish Heroes, Tolkien's Elves, more recently John Galt and Hank Rearden and Francisco D'Anconia. The funny thing is, I thought that I could not bridge the gap between what they represented and the world that now exists and I live in. What a surprise to realize that the boundary is self imposed; "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". (Philippians 4:13) I can be who God calls me to be, that third man on the borders of my mind, instead of what is imposed on others -or indeed, what I impose on myself.

The world needs examples of Christians who are reflecting Christ uniquely, as He designed them. As M. Scott Peck put it (my paraphrase), we are all lanterns uniquely shining God's light. We didn't start the light nor can we maintain it (that is God's doing); all we need do is shine, and in our shining some unique aspect of God or His dealings with the universe will be revealed which could be revealed by no-one else.

Being a unique light bearer of Christ, defined by Him and His creation of me. What could be more desirable than that?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Virtues

"But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge perseverance, to perseverance self control, to self control godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." - 2 Peter 1:5-8

As I have been going through the exercise of memorizing this verse, I was reminded this morning of the fact that it feels like the modern church has abandoned the idea of virtues as a whole. I can think of any number of times that I have heard "Be loving" or "Be holy", but seldom any kind of categorization or additional suggestions as to how to get there.

I love these verses from Peter because, among other things, they are linear: faith, virtue, knowledge, perseverance, self control, godliness, brotherly kindness, love. It's a plan with steps (I love steps). It suggests, on the whole, what virtues we should pursue and apparently in what order.

It also has a promise: if these are ours and abound, we will neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ. Think about it: if I pursue these as I pursue God, He says that I will be fruitful in knowledge and good works, bringing glory to God and honor to myself (Paul pursues this point in 2nd Corinthians 5:10).

So why don't we hear more about them?

If I had to theorize, I would think it is because they are hard. Think about it: how much with the sense of "God made accessible" today would the concept of building the virtues really be accepted? If you've ever tried to develop your faith, virtue, perseverance (there's a tough one) or self control (again, not fun), you know how hard and seemingly unrewarding it can be. If God is accessible and loves me, why should I have to work so hard?

How is it we are more willing to spend time sweating to build up our physical bodies (which will eventually die) than we are to spend time sweating to build up our spiritual virtues (which have eternal rewards)?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Missionary Zeal

I've been grappling with Otis' thought that I really need to look at my job as a missionary endeavor - that I have been placed in this location to be a light for Christ.

I've tended to resist this idea in the past a great deal, mostly from the the thought that I can't believe that God would have me be somewhere less than what I perceive to be the "perfect" job for me. After all, if God had wanted me doing "religious" work, the pastorate thing would have gone a different way.

But as I grappled with the thought further, what I suddenly realized is that it is because it would cause me to have to not be about me.

It seems to me that for any individual to be a missionary anywhere, let alone at work, that it would mean surrendering a great deal of selfishness. For me, that would be surrendering this imaginary or illusory life - call it "fantasy" if you like - about how people look at me, about life as I want to be perceived and living it. In fact, it would require not thinking about any of that at all, instead focusing on how by serving others I can at least demonstrate God's love and God's reality to them.

It would require acceptance of the fact that this life is not my life ("You were bought with a price" says Paul), and that I have no right to ask for anything beyond what I'm given - that my purpose is not about me, or about making my life better or more comfortable, but about making God great. That in the end, the results are not about me or how people think about me, but what they think about God.

"Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me."

The part - beyond the initial "But what about me?" part - that gives me pause is that slightly wicked part of my brain that says "Fine, let's go with that thought. Let's let it be all about God and making Him important. What does that do for you? All you'll end up with is the reality that your life really is small and insignificant. Great and glorious, or small and sticky. And who, in this orgy of being "all about God', will take care of your needs and wants? Trust me, you're not one of the greats, a Hudson Taylor or George Muller or C.S. Lewis. Emptying yourself will simply point to the fact that, in fact, your life is empty . At least with your dreams, you have something to tide you over."

Unflattering thoughts to be sure - but I'd be a liar to say they're not there. If I was a "missionary manager guy" and that's all I was for the rest of my career, never rising above the level I am at now, is that okay? Or is the fact that I struggle with all of this just indicative of the fact that my selfishness and lack of grasping of God's greatness runs much deeper than I like to think?

Write!

There are some moments when one comes to the computer to type, and finds nothing.

How can this be, I ask. Surely there is enough going on in my life - in fact, I know that there is - that would merit a post, a thought, an amusing anecdote? Yet there I sit, the cursor blinking in front of me, saying "Type something. Type something".

I wonder if my lack of typing is created from a true lack of material to type on or a kind of unconscious reticence to write about certain subjects. Not about others - I think long ago I gave up the ability to really concerned about such things, and have reached sufficient ability to speak generally.

No, it's reticence about myself, coming only during periods which seem to mirror when I've discovered either unpleasant truths or pleasant ideas which will require me to act on them.

We will not change until the pain of inaction becomes greater than the pain of action. Some really smart person said that (or words like it) once. How amusing (in a sick sort of way) that I keep getting reminded that it's true.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

500

Something funny happened last night when I was on my way to the blog - I hit 500 posts (technically, this is 501).

No-one is more shocked than I, frankly. I am not one who is know for his ability to persevere in an activity for any great length of time - especially if there's not food involved! - so the fact that this has been kept with (more or less) for 4 years is something of a surprise.

So thanks to everyone who has stopped by to read or comment or just snicker. Here's to 500 more!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Monomaniacal

I talked with Otis driving home from work today, trying to begin the process of walking through my experience of the last five years. One comment I had - one that had come up when talking with Uisdean Ruadh the previous night - was that part of thing that surprised me when I thought about the totality of my experience was the vehemence when I began to dwell on the relationship of Himself and me during the experience.

I say vehemence since I have not physically interacted with Himself in for 3.5 years, and not heard from him at all in 3 years. Yet when the subject comes up, I almost become monomaniacal in my sudden need to know, to find out.

At the least, it's not healthy.

Why is this? What is it about this relationship, or about the circumstances surrounding it, that make it so intense? If I have to sit and think about it, what comes to my mind is the need to feel like I ...

I need to be approved.

I have, deep in the bowels of my soul, this incessant need to be liked, to be recognized. When I reflect over the final failure of The Firm and the dissolving of the friendship thereafter - a friendship of 13 years prior spanning 3 states and 5 moves - one of two thing comes to mind: I was either of no use or not enough success minded. Either of this makes me feel like I lacked value - something that someone who desires to be liked cannot bear more than anything. Thus, I seem to cling to shreds of facts, hoping that I can find some clue as to why I was "abandoned".

This is obviously only my side of the story, of course (there are always two), and I am sure that Himself had a set of useful and good reasons why he chose the actions that he did. Much as I like to think of myself as the "practically perfect" friend, I've got flaws running through my soul like faults through the earth.

But if I look at that - this need to be approved - how much of my life and where I am now comes from decisions made on that need? When I started the Firm, why did I go - was it truly for the best reasons, or was it because I felt like if I didn't jump now, I would be abandoned - and thus not approved. Are the other decisions in the last five years - maybe the whole of my life - that relate to this need to be approved?

And if so, how does one combat this? How does one make approval something less than necessary?

"Really? Really?"

I am finding that have two entirely different people living inside my mind: one, an adventurous "Let's go out and live! Take a risk! Do something Exciting" person (Let's call him Pennsylvania TB, shall we?) and a "No no, I'm a quiet life person. Don't make waves. Be diligent, do what your given." (Let's call him The Clerk).

A small yet typical interaction. Yesterday afternoon at work, I was going through a testing procedure that involved Pearson's product moment correlation-coefficient, checking the spreadsheet to make sure that the formula was there. Suddenly, Pennsylvania TB showed up in room screaming "What you are doing? Are puzzling over a formula to a document that no-one will ever look at? Really? Really?"

To which The Clerk quietly replied "It's our job. We need to do it. Be quiet and let me do this."

Frustrating to say the least, especially when I'm driving home and all I can hear in my head is "Really? Really?" and "We need to do it. Be quiet and let me do this."

But so often this seems to be the ebb and flow of my life between this seeming call to excitement and adventure and fulfillment (with no idea how to get there or what it means) versus the doing the work to support my family and life on things that, in my heart of heart, I know simply don't matter - the work that a man could spend his whole life doing and wake up at the end of it to realize that he was capable of more.

How do I integrate these two, the wild eyed adventurer with his zest and risk taking and the clerk with his diligence to do the right thing, even if it's boring?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reset

I was chatting on the phone last night with Uisdean Ruadh (yes, he is still out of a job and yes, he could still use your prayers) commenting about the state of affairs of my life, the fact that I had been fighting what was a seemingly low grade depression for weeks now. In a flash of obviousness, I said "You know, it's like we are at the end of a long five year process that was kicked off in 2004 by starting the Firm and buying our house. My hope is that by the end of the year, the house will be sold, thus effectively closing out that chapter of our lives."

As I said it, I suddenly realized why I have not been able to get a handle on the problem before: it's breadth. It's almost five years of living a particular situation, followed by the seemingly endless case of a slow motion train wreck, that can't be fully viewed until after the dust settles.

Fortunately for me, I write - I have almost 5 years of journalling and blog entries covering this entire period. The question is, will I mine this resource?

I sat down last night and began making a list of the things I needed to do between now and the end of the year. It is surprisingly light - but that's okay. Hopefully by the end of the year, Old Home will be put to bed - thus drawing a curtain on a long story.

And hopefully, I'll have gleaned the necessary lessons out of it.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Thought for a Rainy Friday

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life and don't let the noise of others opinions' drown out your own inner voice. More important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become." - Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement, 2005

Thursday, October 08, 2009

For Them Or For You

As I was pondering over the seemingly never ending of work at my desk and the continued thoughts of the future of gnawing at my brain, I suddenly had a flash of inspiration.

For you or for them.

Great, I asked my flash of inspiration. Would you care to elaborate?

No, it replied, as it flitted out of my office down to the coffee machine to get a refill.

Fine. I"ll figure it out on my own.

So I sat and thought about it, the papers slowly sliding around on my desk, migrating from pile to pile, my Microsoft Outlook helpfully going "ping" every time I received a new piece of e-mail. I thought and thought and thought and thought.

And then it hit me: who am I working for?

Yes, of course I know I'm working for a company. But as I've lectured myself and others for years, don't invest all your hopes in any company: they will take all the labor you can give them, be thankful for it, and then let you go at the drop of a hat. Your loyalty may be encouraged, but theirs is not guaranteed.

But I still have to work for them.

Or I still have to work.

The key, as it suddenly became apparent, is that I am working for myself, at a particular company. Am I not getting additional benefits from investing in my career through greater understanding, new skills, or even better at what I do? That's my fault, not theirs. I have a great deal of latitude within my assigned tasks to choose what I do and how I do it - they just care that the work gets done.

And those sometime extra hours and long nights? Again, if I'm getting nothing out of it except what a paycheck, it's for them. If I'm learning something out of the opportunities I'm given, it's for me.

In a somewhat bizarre way, it relates back to that getting and becoming discussion I had here and here. What am I becoming as I do any job that I do: a more skilled employee and well rounded person, or someone who just collects a paycheck and grumbles about it?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Towering Pride

So as a response to my October Thinking post, Songbird wrote:

"What if the recent changes in your life that prompted the decision to move to Austin really are for the benefit of someone other than you? It sounds cold, but what if God is gently manipulating things not to provide you with an amazing new life but to begin to move pieces around in the life/lives of the girls, who are just starting on their life paths?"

"Hmm" I initially thought. "What an interesting idea. Interesting - but of course events in my life center around me, and if other's benefit, so much the better."

And then I looked at it again. And my thought processes. And got repulsed.

I am often so self absorbed that even when I don't think it's about me, I think it's about me. The concept that events might happen in my life not for the benefit of me but for the benefit of others is something I think I can say I have never truly processed.

I probably make a mistake when I assume that God's actions in my life are always to benefit me, directly or no. Sure, I often spout that events are for God's glory and my good - but that presumes that "good" means that it is a benefit to me. The concept that something may directly affect me for the benefit of someone else is, well, bad. Very bad. After all, that might call into question this whole "completed life according to my plan" thing.

Can I consciously and honestly deal with the concept that in the event nothing in my life ever directly occurred to benefit me but benefited those around me, it would be okay? When I say I want the best for Na Clann, do I understand the best to possibly be to my detriment?

The next sound you hear will be my pride tumbling off the Precipice of Humility for a long fall to the ground...

Career Tar Pit

Stumbling in enthusiasm at work again. The "Let's try harder to build a better process" seems to have settled into the "I have a lot to do on my list - what can I get off it today" mode.

It's good to have a list. It's good to have a job. What I guess is disappointing to me the sense at which my job has become simply that, a job, a seemingly endless list of things to take care of before I go home in the evening.

There is a certain sense (at least for myself) of fear. Call it the remaining deposit from my layoff. I am very sensitive both to senior management and what they do, looking for evidence that something may occur or is going on. It tends to create this very bizarre dynamic of feeling like so much of what you do is not relevant even as you work your best on the non relevant in the fear that if a job cut comes, you will not be caught in it.

It also makes me wonder what it takes to break out of such a rut. I'm trying - making sure that I am more action oriented (i.e. the list), reading industry publications and trying to apply them, making an attempting to improve the way the company works, reading in the success stories of others trying to get inspired. Usually that can carry me through the first half of the day; by the second half, I am feeling beat down, tired, and depressed. And always, at the back of my head, is are the thoughts "This is for naught" or "There will be more of the same tomorrow."

How does one break out of the seeming tar pit of a stale career?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Memento Mori

One of those "Life coming to a screeching halt" moments yesterday. When I arrived home from work, I found out that the father of one of Nighean gheal's classmates died on Sunday night of a heart attack. He was 30 years old.

It's facts like this that bring into focus both the poignancy and the brevity of life as well as the total (and probably necessary) consideration of everything I do. Plans that you have or want suddenly come into question. "If I went before God tonight" you wonder, "what would He say about this activity? About that plan? Am I truly spending my life on what matters - or am I just fooling myself?"

It brings sharply into focus as well the concept (nay, the fact) that one does not know how long one has; therefore, why don't we do for God with all our might? So often I fool myself with the reality that life is not what it is, that I will always have the time (and more and more the health as well) to accomplish all these "things" that I want to do.

Which, if you think about it, is exactly where Satan wants us: always convincing ourselves that there will be enough time and resources tomorrow to accomplish things for God; that it is okay to do this now because there will be plenty of time to live for God tomorrow; that great works for God are laid in the seeds we plant today, not in the massive effort we magically make in 20 years.

As I go through my list of activities, interests and relationships it is time to reconsider each and every one in the light of eternity: Is this serving God? If not, why is it in my life? Am I truly spending my time -really, let's be fair, God's time that He has gifted me - in the best way possible? Or am I wasting it and the resources He's granted me on lesser things, things that simple have no true value and will not last?

If I died today, how would I stand with God?

Monday, October 05, 2009

October Thinking

And lo, October is upon us.

The advance of the seasons is weighing heavily upon me this year. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it is simply because of the move and the fact that "seasons" here seem to mean a very different thing (Rain? In September? Who heard of such a event?) or perhaps it's simply the sense that being removed from so much that is familiar brings the time of renewal that is the Fall into focus.

I have been reflecting a great deal on the situation of my life at the moment - essentially, where I am, how did I get here, and where do I go from here. The harsh and painful reality is that 40 is not coming again - to make plans as if I had the rest of my life at 20 is both foolish and unproductive (as if, I suppose, I had seriously made plans at 20).

Hmm. Seriously made plans at 20. There's the rub - how effective have I really been at making plans for anything? If you've read here for any length, you know that I have often - perhaps always - struggled with goal setting, both the simple act of it as well as a seemingly incessant need to get the approval of others for my goals (ultimately, the approval of God). And here I am, seemingly at a point which doesn't reflect any goals that I might have had.

This situation cannot continue.

I am reminded of this as I look around at my current job and realize that for the bulk of people there, they seemingly have no aspiration or cares of moving on or where they're going -not that there is anything inherently wrong with that, except that it creates the situation that one becomes dependent on one's employer to determine one's career future - and one's employer, as I have found out, can be extraordinarily fickle.

So what do I do about it?

I'm trying to start some things, even if it is as simple as sitting down daily to think about things, to write stuff down, to get a sense of where I would like to go in my life (God Willing). At least have some sense of planning versus blundering into situation after situation.

God forbid next year I'm at precisely the same place.