Friday, July 30, 2010

Star and Planet

"They are trying to make me into a fixed star. I am an irregular planet." - Martin Luther

There are days - and today is probably another one of them - where, as I get ready to do the things constitute the daily routine of my life, my spirit rebels. This is not the way things are supposed to be, I protest. I dreamed of doing more in life, of making a larger contribution, of living on the edge and being successful - not being another of a long and glorious line of paper pushers, dealing with stress and crises not of my own making or my concern.

It is as if, to quote Luther, one was a planet and had been roped in invisible line by invisible line into becoming a fixed star, no longer even following an orbit but trapped in location.

Some of these lines are self imposed; as many have come from somewhere else and were put on me. The question is, do I continue to be bound and hold steady, or do the lines break - and what happens after that?

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Can our pre-excitement cause something to not occur?

Maybe it's one of my problems with my understanding of God, but I seem to suffer from the sense that if I become too excited about something happening or an opportunity, it never comes to pass - sort of the feeling that Charlie Brown gets every time the ball is ripped out from under him by Lucy.

I don't suppose that's really God's fault, more my perception of Him.

I do believe pre-excitement can cause something not to occur in the sense that we all of a sudden start acting as if something had occurred when nothing has happened - a sort of arrogance about the future, as if we already know what has come to pass. This sort of attitude can turn folks off faster than anything, and suddenly the opportunity is gone before it even arrived.

But the question I am dealing with far more supernatural than that. When we become overexcited about a future opportunity and act as if it has already occurred, are we usurping the prerogative of God? And if so, does He respond to that by shutting that opportunity off because we are more excited about the opportunity than Him?

Or is all of that as well a function of my own will? Something good possibly happens, and I believe that God must be behind it. Then, when circumstances intervene and it suddenly doesn't happen, I ascertain that I must have become too enthusiastic (and arrogant) when in fact that opportunity wasn't any more likely to happen than the fact that it might rain today.

How do I balance anticipation about opportunities with a realistic assessment of how likely they are to occur?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I am suffering from despondency this week.

Despondency (n): The state of being despondent; dejection; hopelessness.

That was useful. What is despondent?

Despondent (n): Feeling or showing extreme discouragement, dejection, or depression; a deep dejection arising from a conviction of the uselessness of further effort.

Yeah, that covers it pretty well.

It's not really depression, or a lest it doesn't feel like it. It's not really discouragement - although I am feeling discouraged. The last sentence captures it best: a deep dejection (lowering of spirits) arising from a conviction (a strong persuasion or belief) of the uselessness of further effort.

The uselessness of further effort? I feel completely disempowered (is that even a word?) in my life, that whether I put in a great deal of effort or a little effort, I get approximately the same result. If I try and raise the bar, there's nothing to hang that bar on and it often seems that the other side of the bar is merely a cliff over which I go hurling straight down.

I desire clarity: this is not depression. I have known depression - know depression - as well as anyone. This is much more of a general sense of pointlessness of effort in almost all aspects of my life; a sense of futility in that a course has now been set up in my life which I have little control of and cannot impact.

The vicious thing about it seems to be that it is that I'm not sure how to resolve this as I would a depression. A depression I understand: eventually I will pull out of it, and often have small things or incidents or people that will assist me. Depression can often be about one thing in my life; despondency seems to be covering the entire lay of the land. An improvement somewhere does not equate into an improvement overall, as there is that sense that in toto the general outcome is ineffectiveness and the impotence of any further effort.

Depression I can manage. How can I manage this?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I am having a great deal of trouble becoming motivated lately.

Motivated: To be provided with a motive; impelled.

Motive (n): Something (as in a need or desire) that causes a person to act. (

So my choices (by motive) is that I lack a need or desire. Interesting as well that motivated is to be provided with a motive; I suppose that is where the concept of self-motivated comes from (I provide my own motive).

Lack a need? Surely continuing to support a family and have food, clothes and shelter should constitute a need. The problem with a need is that it only provides the motivation because it has to be completed. Trying to maintain a long term motivation based on filling the lowest common denominator would, I think, eventually prove demotivating in the long run.

Lack a desire? Oh, I have plenty of desires. The difficulty with counting on these as motives is that they do not occur in a vacuum, especially for someone married and with children. Fulfilling these desires always takes place in the context of the shuffling realities of the greater unit around me; thus, I can motivate myself through pictures and "powerful self-imaging" about something that I want - a new car, for example - but the reality of that getting fulfilled based on all the other factors of my life is fairly small.

So maybe this is the question: how does one find a need (okay, purpose qualifies as a need, right?) or desire (could be any number of things) which is something that can continue to provide impetus as a long term need and/or is truly accessible as a desire not fully dependent on other circumstances around it to be fulfilled? In other words, what is a motive that can handle being thrown up against the glass walls of my life again and again and keep its shape and form, ready every morning not just to make it possible to slog through another day, but enthusiastic to do so?

It has to be here, somewhere. It only needs discovering.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Blacklist Goals List.

I realized today that I have an Blacklist Goals List.

It's that list of secret goals, the one I don't tell anyone about, mostly because it's not really all the admirable. It's not overtly harmful - laying waste to people or theft is not on mine - but it's the little idylls, the daydreams that I dare not speak of least I appear to be less than what I profess to be.

Mine seem to revolve around hurling away large portions of my responsibilities - to just give up and give in and run away to live the life I always dreamed I could, freed from the responsibility of been sane and sound and doing things the the "right" way.

I mocked this Blacklist tonight as I drove home in traffic, puttering along in my 1997 Protege with the semi-functional air conditioning as I watched the more glamorous zip by in their newer cars. I laughed out loud to myself: the image of a 40-something year old cruising up in his '97 white Protege to "hang with the crowd" and be living the life, struck me as funny. The juxtaposition of these two images, the old Protege and "cool" me, sat in in my mind like an image the aging disco junkie from 20 years ago, gold chains jingling as he tried to make the scene amidst the New Wave dance scene. It's that silly.

I say it's silly, but it's poignantly sad at the same time. Being responsible can, frankly, be a bore most of the time. My days have become incredibly scripted, almost to the minute up to the time I get into bed. The bills are paid, Na Clann and The Ravishing Mrs. TB are provided for, the pets are kept in food and shelter and Cheerios - but there is a huge hole in my life, the hole (or maybe whole?) that used to be filled with possibilities, but is now filled with dates and dollars and paperwork to be filed and other things that the "responsible" do.

But now in the back of mind the list continues to hang there, waiting only for me to pick it up, unroll it, and make one of those chaotic decisions which so often promises a zest for life but most often results in greater misery - conveniently dressed up in a new car and a new life.

Which I suppose is the point of the list: to keep it in my mind rather that out in my life.

Instability can occasionally be okay; chaos, not so much.

Square Peg, Round Hole

As I was mentally preparing for another week of work last night in bed, I was hit (once again) by the feeling of being square peg pushed into a round hole, more strongly than I have of late.

I want to say that I feel called to something else, some more elusive career - that only God apparently knows. I'd like to say that - but I have no evidence for the existence of any such thing other than my feeling that it is so, that sort of nagging feeling that there is something else.

In one way I am very conscious of God's control in my life right now, as I last year when out of all the resumes I sent out, I only received one job offer (here in New Home) - so I was meant to be here (and, to be fair, circumstances have proven that out). I'm conscious of the fact that in more recent searches nothing has panned out, even things that were quite local. Obviously, when it is time it will appear (not that it excuses me from continuing to be active).

But perhaps part of the difficulty lies in the fact that I am looking within the same field that I am currently in. Perhaps it is as if I keep banging the peg down further into the hole, hoping that it will somehow conform if I keep pushing it hard.

To paraphrase Brian Tracy, "If I was not doing what I am doing now, would I start in it? What would I start instead?"

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What If

What if the job you had was the only one you would ever have?
Would you work at it differently?
Would you coast until retirement?
Would you seek to work harder to make it successful
as it is the only one?

What if the marriage you had was the only one you would ever have?
Would you treat it differently?
Would you work at working it out more?
Would you constrain wild imaginings as falsehoods instead of options,
flame and ash intead of possibilities?

What if the life you had was the only one you would ever have?
Would you seek to live more boldly?
Would you seek to love more fully?
Would you seek to try things more often and with greater zeal
knowing that it might be the only chance you get?

What would happen if this all turned out to be true?

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Ring

I am banging up against the borders of my life again.

There are two items in conflict: my life as I see the possibilities and my life as I see the actualities. One is out there pushing the boundaries of what I want and what I am capable of; the other is firmly grounded on where I am currently and the responsibilities that I have to deal with.

Dreams and responsibilities. Two ends of a spectrum which occasionally someone is able to bend into a circle such that they both meet and can be worn like a ring.

Is that one of the keys to success then? To take our dreams and our responsibilities and forge them into the ring of our life?

As I write this, the picture that leaps to my mind is I the One Ring from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of The Rings. If you recall, it was ring forged for dreams (control of the entire world is a form of a dream I suppose) which eventually destroyed all that wore it. It offered infinite power but (like all evil) came with a high price.

But what I'm thinking about is not an object of evil forged by one seeking world domination, but something that exists by our being alive, and something that some people consciously work on while other people passively accept.

Dreams without responsibility become irresponsible; responsibility without dreams becomes drudgery. Either way, two parts without the whole do not have the power of the whole.

Those who focus purely on their dreams can often leave a trail of misery of the people and things that they have used and discarded in their quest. Those who focus purely on their responsibility can also often leave a trail of misery as duty pushes out any joy or excitement which is transmitted as a dull stifling cloud to all around them.

And perhaps the ring analogy is appropriate: like a skilled ringmaker, we are challenged throughout our lives to forge together these two metals (dreams and responsibility) and make them into one seamless metal, the pattern of our lives.

What are you forging today?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Enjoyment Versus Desperation

"If you enjoy the process, it's your dream. If you are enduring it, desperate for the results, it's somebody else's." - Laws of Attraction via Twitter

This quote has been rattling around in my head since I read it yesterday - one of those thoughts that just keeps hanging on in a determined fashion, refusing to let go.

The phrase that keeps turning my head is "desperate for the results". This concept has occurred more than once in my life - it occurred at The Firm, it has occurred scattered across the various positions I have currently held in my industry.

At The Firm, I wanted the results that the work would bring. While I enjoyed my work, I can honestly say that my heart was not fully in it (thus, my failure). In my current line of work, I become desperate for the potential financial rewards, not the output of the work as a whole.

"If you enjoy the process, it's your dream." What processes have I enjoyed? I enjoyed teaching, when I did that. I enjoy the various "rural" activities I've done, whether gardening or beekeeping or making and preserving foods (and beer and mead!) from scratch. I enjoy the process of writing - although it drives me to distraction sometimes. I (as I found out this week) enjoy the process of helping people to find their strengths.

I'm not sure what it all means and I'm not sure how to apply it - but the power of the statement speaks to me. Enjoyment versus desperation. Why would anyone choose the one above the other?

Not Expected

I'm discovering something as I continue through the chaos that is my employment life right now: I really like helping people discover their strengths, encouraging them, and helping them to believe in themselves.

This is not something I had looked for or even imagined - but I'm finding that it brings me great joy.

As I interact with my coworkers - Fear Beag, Fear Mor, An Bean-Bhohanach, An Bean Bhoidheach, An Fear Gluaistean, even Otis, Songbird, Bogha Frois and Buttercup - and hear of their frustrations, dreams and goals, I find my myself drawn - I can think of no other word - to help them in their quests, which in reality is ultimately a quest to be the best that they can be. Interestingly part of that is something that I cannot seem to do for myself: to look beyond themselves to see what they apparently cannot, and believe in them when they will not.

I am surrounded by great people of whom have I no doubt will go on to do great things. To be with them day in and day out, to see what they do, to hear them talk - all of this creates no doubt in my mind that these are people who can and will do far beyond what they are doing now.

This raises two questions for me:

1) What is this telling me about perhaps what I should be doing?
2) Why don't I have this same level of optimism and belief in myself?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

All Eyes On Me

Thwacked on the side of the head yesterday about this whole question of whom I am exalting in my life.

I managed to make a bad joke in a public setting (no, not a rude one, or a dirty one, or one in any way in poor taste - just a bad one) - the sort of thing that everyone looks at your quizzically about and then moves on to another subject of conversation. I was doing it (I assume) to stay involved in the conversation which was about something I have no participation in; what I looked like was just crazy (or stupid). It made me reflect back some years ago where a similar instance happened at earlier job with much the same impact and much the same musings as today, except with the added one of "Have I learned anything?"

Who am I drawing attention to in my life: myself or Christ? That's the bottom line, the bottom level question of my day to day interaction with everyone I do.

It's a difficult question to face - I am by nature flamboyant and loud and almost instinctively seek to have attention on me. But is it the right thing - by putting the attention on me, am I pulling off the One whom I'm supposed to be putting it on?

I compare my actions with that of the apostles in the Book of Acts, especially Paul. Time and time again he ends up being the center of attention - not specifically for what he has done but for his testimony about Christ. And, given the opportunity, he spends that attention he gets on proclaiming Christ.

I'm not Paul, and I am not a full time evangelist (or a part time, or really one at all - not my gift). But the point still remains - when the attention gets focused on me, how is it getting there and what am I doing with it? Am I seeking to make it about myself - or God?

The arguments come up in my mind of course: the "If you don't do that, if you just work and live quietly, nothing will happen in your life"; "People will run over you if you humble yourself (there's that thought again) because this world only works if you push to get ahead; and "If you don't play the game, you don't get the reward".

Fair enough, I suppose - on a worldly level. But that in theory is the difference for the Christian: we put our eggs in the one basket of God. As someone else has said, "Faith is believing in God, knowing that if He doesn't come through, we're lost". We are, by living humbly ourselves and exalting God, to count on God to move us on His time and in His way - not by scrambling to get ahead, but by waiting on Him to move things as He wills.

My example is that of this very blog. I often write not having any idea if there is any difference being made by what I write. I occasionally get updates from friends about liking what I wrote or how it spoke to them, but in general it feels like I write and post things into a hollow Internet space. I sometimes grumble as I see the blogs or writings of others which are more successful or more impactful than my own, wondering "Why can't I be that way and have that impact?"

But this is a compact I made long ago with this blog: it is personal, it is my own thoughts, and I would do nothing commercially (via those ads) or otherwise to promote it beyond letting friends know it is here. If it is God's will that it prospers and has impact, so be it.

The reality is, that is what my life should be like as well, seeking to live quietly and diligently. If it is God's will that it prospers and has impact, so be it. We are not called to be anything other than mirrors reflecting the Glory of God. As a mirror has no independent ability to function without something to reflect or a light, so we too are to live and work in such a way that the attention is on the One who is being reflected, not the item which is doing the reflecting.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pre-Dawn Humility

Looking out into the predawn light, I contemplate the beginning of another week.

I find myself continually brought back and forth between two positions, wanting to go out there and "tear it up" even while I am trapped by the fact that my enthusiasm would only further the goals of folks other than me and would in the end not make a great deal of difference.

But this is the fact that I was reaching for yesterday as well, the idea of recognition and serving the ends of others, even as they may not recognize that fact.

But in some way we are all serving the ends of others; in the big picture, we are serving the ends of God (consciously or unconsciously).

Yesterday at church, the sermon was on humility. Our pastor noted that every morning, we have two choices: exalt ourselves or humbling ourselves. There is no third option. Every action we take has the effect of doing one or the other.

We want to be noticed. Humility, he stated, handles our needs for notice. By exalting ourselves, we need other's notice. By humbling ourselves, we notice other's needs. What about our needs? As Christians, we leave it to God to notice our needs.

By humbling myself, I definitively turn my eyes towards the needs of others, of meeting their goals. My goals? In some cases it then turns on God to meet those; in others, perhaps it is my goals themselves that need changing.

So in my predawn angst, there's my answer. In whatever I do today, am I seeking to notice the needs of others and serve them? That is the commandment from God, whether in business or personal relations.

Effect? Impact? My own goals and agenda? Those, with humility, I turn over to God. If He does them, He will do them better than I and will receive the glory, not myself.

Which, if you think about it, is the ultimate point of humbling one's self.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I have a problem with achieving.

Specifically, achieving for the sake of my own personal recognition and not the recognition of others.

This is something that I think comes both from my tendencies to want people to like me and to please them as well as my (relatively long) career in school. From my concern with peoples' opinion of my, I tend to always wanted to be noticed for what I've done - even if it is just a verbal notice. From my years in school, I have come to associate effort with reward i.e. if I do the schoolwork, I will get the grade (and get noticed).

The problem is, this is not the way it seems to work in the real world. More often than not, there is no notice of what I have done - therefore, I often stop doing it. However, the reality is that I do need to continue to do it to move forward both in my career and my life - even though I there is no recognition specifically forthcoming.

This is the core of my problem then - how do I self motivate towards larger goals without the instant gratification of recognition? How do I keep on when it seems no-one else is watching or noticing?

One train of thought, I suppose, is that of attaching your own rewards to the goals: achieve this, reward yourself with that. The only problem with that is usually things that I would reward myself with are far beyond the easy grasp (financially) of what I have available to me, and seldom in a timely manner with the achievement.

Another train of thought would simply be to recognize yourself in your mind and move on. This could work I suppose; the difficulty is that when I do something like that and mentally give myself the "Attaboy", it hardly has any impact on my thinking or my self image - seeing myself as having accomplished something is not something that impacts me.

So how do I do it then? How do I embed what I want to do so deeply that I hold to it, no matter whether recognition comes or not?

Friday, July 16, 2010


There's an eerie sort of silence in my life right now.

I remember this silence before - the last time was after The Firm collapsed. It's the sound of, well, nothing.

Suddenly e-mails and phone calls for a business or project grind to a halt. There is no communication where there used to be a plethora of it.

There is an initial belief that it is a temporary things, only a day or two at the most. As the situation continues on, the belief turns to panic, as one starts turning to one's e-mail and phone several times a day, hoping that something will magically appear - only to see the same irrelevant e-mails and junk come floating through.

The power and confidence one felt a week ago has been laid waste, leaving nothing in its tracks but a vast inner silence and a quiet sense of desperation.

The difficulty I am having is coming out of this. The discouragement suddenly becomes overwhelming, any sense of self confidence is completely gone and there is a true sense of "Why try?" because it made no difference.

The worst part of it is the seemingly pathetic hopefulness that reasserts itself every time the phone rings or one opens e-mail. "It'll be there" the inner voice says, "just open or answer it. It'll be there."

And in point of fact, it is not.

How does one find confidence and hope in a situation where one controls almost nothing?

Thursday, July 15, 2010


This is the fifth time I have started to type something in this space.

I'm confused - or tired - or lonely - or maybe all three. Everyone else is back in Old Home at this point, so it is just me and the assorted menagerie as we make our way through next week.

My career confuses me this week. I commented yesterday that it feels like there is so much to be done that I don't know where to start, and even if I did I would have no sense that it would accomplish anything worthwhile.

I started to go through making a list of goals last night - specifically around financial goals - and the thought that spewed right back at me was "that's great to make these -how are you going to actuate them starting where you are?" And then I thought again of the big wall of goals on my wall, sighed, and carried on.

What I need, it seems, is a sense of hope. A sense of something to start with, some minor success that I can build on to help me grow in my confidence to solve larger problems.

What one minor thing can I make better today?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Disappointment yesterday evening when I arrived home. The opportunity that I hoped was going to be available will not be.

At this point I have no idea why - I've submitted a request for additional information, so we'll see what I can find out. However, it is disappointing (there's that word again) that it did not work out as intended.

Which in some ways puts me right back to the drawing board - but the drawing board with a purpose.

In going through this exercise, I think I got little closer to what I am doing and why I am doing. The thought patterns that I entertained during vacation have helped me move along there as well.

There was a quote I found this morning as I was reading through Victory: Applying the Proven Principles of Military Strategy to Achieve Success In Your Business and Personal Life by Brian Tracy by Sir Francis Bacon: "A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds."

Fine. Just because I had everything worked out in my mind didn't mean it work out in real life. That just means I have to try all the harder. This most recent opportunity was one that I found.

I'll just have to work to make some more.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Two Places

Getting ready to trek back from The Ranch this afternoon towards New Home.

I wandered down into the Lower Meadow this morning, the uncut grasses up to my knees as the leftover green grass near the spring which supports the midsummer wildflowers bowed in the wind. The dragonflies were hovering and darting around my head level as lower, bees and butterflies were moving from flower to flower on their own business. Birds were dipping and landing near the horses' path, apparent flying in to get at the insects in the lower levels of grass exposed by the horses' travels.

As I stopped and watched the wonder of it all, I suddenly realized how hard it is to have one's heart in two places at the same time.

I don't know how to reconcile these two halves of my life, the part that I live with most of the year and the part of my life I want to live with most of the year.

All I know is that every time I leave, it feels more and more a balancing act I cannot hold together.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ranch Again

It has been a pleasant visit back to The Ranch - even as I write this, the morning breeze bearing the pine-laden scent of what can only be The Mountains and the dirt laden scent of The Ranch waft through the golden highlighted window screens.

It has been a good - but busy- visit here, something that I am not fully comfortable with. I am used to being here without a sense of timekeeping involved a sense of "I have to do this, and this and this - because I have to leave in five days." It gives things much more the sense of a trying to cram everything into a sightseeing tour rather than seeking to moderate time and activities.

It's also always good to see family and old friends - too good actually, as it makes hunger for the relationships and location of Old Home. Not that this makes New Home any worse (or better), it just reawakens the realization that there is not here.

But for now that's all okay. I'll sit here, let the breeze flow through my nostrils and over my body, and just enjoy being here.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Five Virtues of the Cock

" While serving under the Duke Ai of Lu, T'ien Jao, resenting his obscure position, said to his master, 'I am going to wander far away like a snow goose.'

'What do you mean by that?' inquired the Duke.

'Do you see the cock?' said T'ien Jao in reply. 'Its crest is a symbol of civility; its powerful talons suggest strength; its daring to fight any enemy denotes courage; its instinct to invite others whenever food is obtained shows benevolence; and, last but not least, its punctuality in keeping the time through the night gives us an example of veracity. It spite, however, of these five virtues, the cock is daily killed to fill a dish on your table Why? The reason is that it is found within our reach. On the other hand, the snow goose traverses in one flight a thousand li. Resting in your garden, it preys on your fishes and turtles and pecks your millet. Though devoid of any of the cock's five virtues, yet you prize this bird for the sake of its scarcity. This being so, I shall fly far like a snow goose.'"

- Ancient Chinese Parables, Yu Hsiu Sen Ed., as quoted by Robert Greene in The 48 Laws of Power

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The "Working" Manager

Sitting in a business meeting yesterday I made a startling revelation.

I sat there with a group of individuals like myself, manager or project manager types, discussing the investigation and possible procurement of a type of support equipment. As I sat there listening to the ebb and flow of conversation as I was not really impacted by this, I realized that the senior individual in the room, a director-level position, was seemingly the one to whom the meeting was addressed even though it was not initially their problem. By a series of questions from this person others expressed what they knew, and by the end of the meeting this individual had organized an action plan - for which they themselves had no action items.

As I walked back across the business campus mulling this over in mind, I suddenly saw this meeting repeated again and again in my mind: a group of individuals who does the work is brought together, a senior or executive management member reviews the situation, asks a few questions, and offers some comment, and everyone walks away with the individuals having more work and the management members having made the decision.

This is not to suggest that senior/executive managers do not work hard - I know that they do! - but to grapple with the concept of where that line occurs in a career.

In all of my management positions I have been told it's a "working manager" position, the idea apparently being that managers need to "work" as well as "manage" and "make decisions." What I've come to find over time is that this concept of a working manager "works" only sometimes depending on the industry - and almost never in terms of advancement in house.

If the essence of management is learning to make and execute decisions - and by execute at that level, I mean "ensure that it is executed" - then the working manager is always in a bind. They cannot truly focus on executing decisions as they have a quota of work which they're always expected to produce as well as "manage" the work under them. What this creates is a situation that most will never rise to the level of decision maker because they will never have reached that quota of work as well as have made the decisions to manage that they are to have made. Even delegation only goes so far in this case, as one does not want to appear that one is not "working".

How can this be changed to an advantage? I think part of the groundwork has to be laid up front coming into the position by clarifying that "working manager" means that while some work will be done, the management and decision side is equally important both to the company and a future career at it. The next part is probably learning to get better both at managing the tasks and resources at hand. A small group of anyone cannot do everything, so both expectations and output need to be managed accordingly.

Finally, one simply has to start making decisions and seeing that they are executed by yourself or those around you. The only way to learn is to do it, sometimes sanctioned or not.

Decision makers decide. Working managers work. I know where I'd like to be.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Buttercup's Dad: Are You Ready?

Buttercup (she of the noble prose) received a call this weekend that her father had collapsed. Rushed to the hospital and in ICU for Saturday and Sunday, they were informed on Monday that his body was starting to shut down and that it was time to turn the machines off and let him go. Since that time his body has struggled up and down and at the time of this update, the final outcome is still unknown.

I've never met Buttercup's parents; what I know of them I know only through how she acts and behaves (which is all good). I do know that this was not expected; as Otis related, "We knew his heart was not doing well but we didn't think it would be so soon." Soon - at 61.

But none of us know. That's the thing that hammered at my brain last night, that hammered at me when I got up this morning and sat in front of this keyboard. None of us knows the time of our passing - but we always act like we do:

- We plan our futures, financially and relationally, with what we will have in the future and where we will go and what we will do, not knowing if we will arrive at that future.

- We imagine a death in which we pass being able to communicate with our loved ones and making our peace with God, not knowing if death when it comes will be swifter than we imagine or so filled with pain and delirium that we cannot communicate.

- We put off the important of tomorrow for the urgent of today thinking that we can cheat priorities just this one time, only to find that there is a tipping point to such priorities that we never see until too late.

I have two requests of you as you go about your post holiday work week this week:

1) Remember Buttercup, Otis and their families in your prayers. Undoubtedly the outcome of this, whatever it will be, will result in layers of emotion and adjustment.

2) As you go about your day today, as you go about your plans for the future ask yourself "If I died right now, would I be ready? What three things would I leave undone?"

If you're not ready, both temporally and eternally with God, make yourself so. And then get on doing those three things. Because you never know.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Concentration and Focus

"Concentration is a major key to minute-by-minute success in any endeavor." - Maxwell Maltz, The New Psycho-Cybernetics

I have made an unusual discovery this weekend: I am a man who works best under a schedule carefully planned.

This is a revelation to me. I have always pictured myself as someone who hated the strictures of a schedule, who did his best work under the free-flowing conditions of doing whatever seemed to come to me at the moment. Reality, however, tells me a different story.

Given an average day, by the time I leave for work I have prayed, done my PT, read my morning Scripture reading, worked on Scripture memorization, read Sun Tzu, read my devotional at the time (Currently The Ladder of Perfection by Walter Hilton), read my success reading for the day, studied my Greek, studied my Gaelic, written my blog, and have caught up on one or more of the sites I follow. This is all accomplished in approximately 1.25 hours.

I compare this with weekends or holidays, where I don't have to "get up", and have that time that I don't have to spend on pesky work. The reality is, I am far less productive in all aspects of my life - spiritual, relational, personal - than I am during the week. The difference: I perceive that my time is much more limited, therefore I work to use it as effectively as possible.

The lesson is straightforward: if I want to get the same mileage out of all my time, I need to follow the same pattern.

I have never liked lists, never liked planning (although strategy is something I am coming to grips with). However, I am going to like getting to the end of my life (whether today or 40 years hence) realizing all the time I wasted because I didn't want the "burden" of planning.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Decisions To Be Made

Feeling torn this morning at the Tuning Fork in the road.

I have three possibilities that are presenting themselves: one involves a higher position and more money but separation from my family more often, one involves staying in New Home but a lower position (possibly equal pay), and one involves just staying where I am right now.

I say torn because I have that uneasy feeling in my stomach that I often get when I am facing a decision which I don't know clearly what to do.

I made a list last night of why to stay and why to go. I came up with half a dozen reasons to stay in the location we are in, and only two reasons to change jobs (one of them - be fair - is that I so often have problems at my current location).

But money is not enough of a reason to change - I made that decision twice before, and neither time has it gone very well for me - The Firm, and then the job that indirectly moved us to New Home.

It's good to have opportunities - why am I so reluctant to make a choice?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Tuning Forks in the Road

The thought of a tuning fork occurred to me this morning as I was contemplating not only our first full year in New Home, but the reality of decisions that are upcoming. We are, as they say, reaching forks in the road which, once taken, can never be gone back on.

As I thought about the forks (both real and metaphorical) it occurs to me that really they are not just forks in the road, but tuning forks in the road.

For those of you that have never done music, you may have heard of a tuning fork. It's a metal implement resembling a fork (except with two prongs) which is struck on a surface to produce a pitch by which individuals and instruments can attune themselves to. The clear tone produced gives the performer an audible tone to adjust to, rather than a visual sign by a typical tuning meter. It can be a much more difficult process.

When we treat decisions as forks, we assume that there is a standard by which we are making that decision i.e. money, time, goals, etc. Based on what is going in my life, we say, how can I make the best decision to serve my own goals. But if we treat it purely as an objective decision without any reference to our heart or God's heart, we miss a valuable input into which decision is more correct.

Which is why decisions should be tuning forks in the road. When a decision is a tuning fork, we align our heart not to the externals, but to the internals: if God is resonating in my life (which He should be), what about this decision attunes my heart to the tone that I am hearing? As the process of tuning is one of aligning an instrument to the perfect pitch, so our decision making - our forks in the road - should be a process of attuning ourselves more and more to God and His will for our lives.

It takes practice, of course. Unlike regular decisions, tuning fork decisions require us to learn to listen carefully to the tone provided - and then adjust our lives and decisions to that. It will be awkward as we continue to adjust the various slides that improve our pitch, creating some fairly awful (and irreproducible) noises from our instruments.

But what a wonder to arrive at our destination with our lives in tune with the Master Instrument Maker, ready to perform in a far larger orchestra than any of our earthly decisions could have given us.