Monday, November 30, 2015

Friday, November 27, 2015

Being an Accessory

There is nothing worse than realizing you are an accessory.

It may not be a conscious thought on the part of others or something that they are even aware that they are doing (hopefully not, because otherwise there are worse issues involved).  They may see it as a simple taking charge of the situation to make sure that things get done or even that if someone else will not lead (whatever their definition of that is), they will do so.  But what ends up happening is that one ends up being an accessory.

What do I mean?  The fact that your participation and acceptance are assumed.  That you have no other opinion beyond that of what has been decided by others, that your will is simply that of the majority (or whoever is making the decisions), and that your lack of silence about the whole thing is really an indication of your acceptance of this fact, rather than any indication that you may silently not agree or simply would rather not create a situation in the first place.  And then, once the action is completed or the task done, you are simply put back on the shelf  or returned to your place, a piece of jewelry that has served its purpose, the tool that has helped to complete the task.

It leaves the person in question, the one who has been the accessory, feeling a little less enthused over time. One no longer has a role or purpose beyond that which is filled in the lives of those who need the accessory.  Enthusiasm is only shown when one does the thing which the other person wants or feels is necessary and like a Pavlovian response, excitement and attention are paid - but try something which is not directly in plan or is even counter to it and one will find that the excitement and attention fade away faster than cherry blossoms in the wind.  Appreciation often feels to be extended  because of what one does, not because of who one is.

How does one handle this?  Unfortunately, there seem to be no good options.  If a superior is treating you this way, they generally view any reaction or complaint as simply being insubordinate or having authority issues - after all, the point of reports is to serve and take their suggestions seriously.   If it is someone else, an equal or even a loved one, they either will not see the issue or consider any note of it as a sign that you are selfish or self absorbed, not a team player or concerned with the bigger picture.  The options become either to put one's foot down and thereby create arguments and disagreements and hurt feelings or simple go along with the flow, side-stepping any unfortunate incidents and gently sighing inside.

There is one thing, one thing that the outside will never see though:  every time the accessory is used as an accessory, a little piece of free will and responsiveness goes away, heading off to either an inner reservoir of resistance or to a place where things are different.  Continued long enough, all that will remain is the vehicle which can be used, the accessory which decorates or fixes.

The will, the inner core, the engagement, will have gone elsewhere.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

One of my regular posts every year for which I do not write but only copy, as it is fitting for the day.

George Washington's 1789

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.


Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.


- http://www.wilstar.com/holidays/wash_thanks.html

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Not Fooling God

I keep forgetting that I cannot fool God.

Oh, I think I can.  I cloak things in the very best sort of language in my mind:  Love, Christian Service, Good Samaritan - you name it, I have probably come up with it in my mind at one time.  The problem is that none of this, if I get to the bottom of it, is really true.  It is just me, trying to find cover to cover actions I have already decided to take.

He continues to be gracious to me, more than I probably deserve.  The reprimands remain in private, exposed only to me but clearly and directly tied to the things I have done.  I know, and I know that He knows.

The probably not so funny part is that I usually know too, right around the time I am doing them.  You know the score:  in the midst of getting ready to complete an action (for me, usually something which is being done in a rush rather than with foresight) there is that stinging moment of guilt, that sense that what you are doing is not really what you should be doing.  Yes, maybe it is not out front sin that would definitively call one into to question but the questionable action that gently eases one across the line without the direct feeling of doing wrong - but it is there.  You look at it, think about it for a moment, come up with some sort of rationalization - "It is the right thing to do"  or "This is just a/an X. No-one would ever consider this to be over the top" - and away goes the act.

It never works out of course.  The act inevitably goes awry.  The thing is lost.  The words are misconstrued.  The action turns out to be pointless - or even worse, it turns out not to be the great moment that you imagine in your mind, the Turning Point or Great Sacrifice, but rather just a blip that happens and then is instantly swept into the torrent of time, seemingly gone without impact.

You stand there of course, holding the physical item or moment in your hand and head, wondering how such a thing could have happened.  How could an event have gone so wrong as to be completely ignored or the action become so irrelevant that it is if it never happened?  It is not the fault of the proposed recipient of course:  God has taken care of them as well, protected them from your well-meant but perhaps not so well intentioned act.  Their lives and their minds were headed other places seeking other things while all the time you were firmly planted in the dark, thinking you were a shining star.

Then the question becomes:  have I learned?  Have I finally learned that I cannot take events into my own hands, hearts and minds into my own possession, and try to mold them to my purposes in the absence of true noble actions and deeds?  Or will I continue to cling to the idea that I can arbitrate the true inner and outer meaning of my actions, without seeing them for what they are?

Because one day - perhaps sooner than we care to believe -  there will be an end to the benevolence, the quiet rebuke, the inner whisper of wrong.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Schedule On, Schedule Off

It is the off-work schedule that tells us more about our time than the work schedule.
I am off of work this week - time to burn and two "free" days have made this a recurring holiday over the years. With the advent of vacation, of course, my whole morning and evening timeline tends to fall apart - I am not getting up at a very early hour, not blogging as early (obviously), not having to drive to work and back and fit things in.

The question is, how am I using that time instead?

Not well, I am afraid.

I dither.  I find myself easily diverted by lesser things that I would perceive to be of lesser importance usually, I find myself without drive, without a task list.  Whenever I think about making a task list my immediate internal response is "I am on vacation".

My initial response is to say "This is not right.  I should have a list of everything I need to be working on when I am not at work.  I have things that need to be accomplished - why am I not doing them?" And I suppose to some extent that is true: there are projects that need doing, things that if they are not scheduled will never get done.

But is that response right?  Not completely,

If things are as tightly scheduled on my off days as my on days, then something is wrong.  If I leave no time for relaxation or simply "doing" things, can it be said that my life is any better than if I were just doing everything I had to do all the time.

Yes, I need to write some things in.  But also yes, I need to just take some time to just simply allow myself to do and be.  Because creativity and doing or being is not always found in the regimented moments of a life.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Shrinking the Relational Circle

My relational circle is probably getting ready to contract again.

Last week I wrote about our inability to communicate with each other on the Internet.  That was last week.  In the intervening period of 4-5 days, things have not gotten much better.  In fact, I have just had mounting evidence that the thing is much worse.

The thing that depresses me all the more about the whole thing is that I do not believe that people view the inconsistencies in their life as such.  Social media has accelerated the issue I suspect, but I am sure that the latent tendencies were always there.

We have come to view our lives as compartmentalized  I am this over here for these things but over there for something else.  In this part of my life I can find this hilariously amusing, but in this part of my life I need to be deadly serious about something.  We perhaps seldom consider how these two things which are seemingly so different look to those outside of use.

Our lives no longer reflect any sense of attempting to bring them into some kind of unified whole, that what we say and do and practice is consistent across all situations.

Consistency.  We do not value it.  There is a thought I had not considered before.

How does this relate to my relational circle?  There are two ways to relate to people.  The first, the one that possibly matters the most, is how we relate to others.  As a Christian, I get no slack here.  I must be able to engage with and speak to all people.  I am Christ in their lives, perhaps the only example of Him they will see.  My ability to live consistently and relationally matters.  That does not stop.

The second is how others relate to us.  Here, I think, we can engage in a little more selective practices.  The best example I can think of is something where everyone else around you is doing it but you do not have to do it - in fact, there may be prudent reasons for you not to be around it or to carry the thoughts of it around with you.  And so you start to taper off those times when such things occur or avoid situations that would put you in contact with them.

And so, I think, with me.

Life is short. My energy and time are limited.  Discordant thinking and negative thoughts increasingly have no place in what I am trying to accomplish.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Longing

You dance in my dreams;
I am buoyed by your courage.
You make my heart sing.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Failure to Communicate

We have lost the ability to speak to each other in words that others can hear.

Our debates have become Internet memes, background pictures with clever words meant to shame or embarrass our opponents without any thought beyond that of gaining the intellectual upper hand.

Our discussions have become short sentences - tweets or snapchats or short phrases on Facebook delivered without contact or context, then responded to in anger or righteous superiority of our position.

We have lost the ability to speak.  We have lost the ability to be kind.

Oh, we say that we are interested in communication.  We spend our days on our phones and computers, chatting and texting one another.  Our lives have become full of words - and yet empty of of communication.

We are rapidly losing that most basic of interactions that are supposed to differentiate us from all other species, the ability to communicate.

I spend my days wrapped in sadness, slowly withdrawing more and more from the communication and technological mediums available to me as all I see and read and hear is anger and fear and hatred - so little kindness, so little consideration of others and how our words impact them.

I weep for the future - not so much that I fear something particular happening, but rather that no matter what will happen, we will have lost our ability to communicate about it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Redbird Singing in the Dead of Night

So Redbird turned in her notice today.

It was not unexpected - she has been unhappy for more time that I can almost remember now, stressed to the point of creating physical issues and mental pain.  She has been to this precipice perhaps 50 times since I have known her.  And today was finally the day.

I talked with her in the afternoon after the thing was done.  There was a peace about her, a peace that I had not seen in months - but a peace I was all too familiar with from others that have gone before her on the same journey.  It was all the cares of the job simply melting away, leaving nothing but the future behind.  Maybe not knowing what was coming next, but knowing that whatever it was it was not what the past had been

As she was reminiscing over the things that had brought her to this point, she said something that hit me deeply:  "I realized that there were people here that I had worked with for 9 months, people who had not known me before things started to go bad - and all they know of me is that person:  angry, emotional, sad, bitter.  They do not know the real me, the fun happy me, the me that exists away from this before everything went so badly."

That thought struck me to the core.

Yes, I understand that happiness can be choice.  At the same time, like it or not, we are influenced by the environment around us.  And sometimes that environment can weigh on us heavily indeed.

What would it be like if we worked, lived, and loved in an environment where we enjoyed what we did, who we spent our time with, and cared about the things that deeply mattered to us.  What would we be like?  How would others perceive us?  Would they see us as we are now, or would they see us as we wish others to perceive us?

I wish I knew.  Others can see farther down that road than I can at this point.

Fly High Redbird.  Fly Free.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Achieve Greatness



I will simply say that I went out this weekend and achieved greatness, at least greatness larger than anything I thought possible.  It is completely possible - but I simply had to go do it.  And ask permission of no-one, not even myself.

The possibility exists.  We need only to lead ourselves to embrace it, not constantly check over our shoulder to see if others permit it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

Of Cups and Charity III

My finishing thought yesterday was "What if the Church gave in such a way that it made a significant difference?  What would the world look like?"

Or more fundamentally, could we change the way government functions as we know it?

The Church has one mission;  to proclaim Christ crucified and resurrected.  To do this it has three methods:  witness of the Word, witness of our lives, and witness of our actions.

Of these three, the Word or lives would be considered easier by most - it is easy for most (not necessarily me) to preach the Word or to work on being more holy.  It is the witness of our actions, however, that can often be the most difficult - but the thing that the world pays attention to most.

There are arguably many reasons for the growth of government many sectors including the social (which, of course per my policy, we will not handle here).  But is is possible to contemplate that part of the reason that the government entered charity in the first place was that the Church was failing in its mission to accomplish it?

Governments since time immemorial have engaged in periodic care of the needy - witness Rome and the "panem et circensus (bread and circuses)" or its price control of grain.  This has probably stemmed as much from a desire to avoid instability as a desire to assist - or in some unfortunate circumstances, a desire to control.

Christians should be different.  Our motivation should not be for stability or control or perhaps even to assist (noble as it is) but rather the share the love of Christ in a tangible fashion, to do the good that God tells us He wants us to do.

Am I saying that the people in government who handle such things are evil or controlling?  No.  They are doing a job.  But more fundamentally I am asking if the job they are doing is something that Christians should be doing - not to put them our of work but for us to live our calling.

Could this be done in short order?  Of course not.  And calls to simply halt things always end at the same place:  that no-one will step in to fill the gap. And too often that is a legitimate complaint against Christianity.  So it will take time: time for us to practice giving in larger and larger ways, time for us to build credibility as people who will always do what we say will do.  This is a long term goal, probably longer than any of our lifetimes.

But who knows - if the Church were sincerely to engage in this activity, to really make an effort, would God not intervene in our behalf?

Funny thing - He says in such situations He will.

So let us get with it.  Start somewhere.  But never be satisfied with less when we can do more.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Of Cups and Charity II

So how should Christians practice Charity?

Yesterday I had small suggestion, potentially the easiest one:   Give what we spend on our pleasures to a worthy (in my case Christian) organization.  But that is just a starter.  I would like to go a bit deeper.

Some folks would make the argument (I suppose) that if one merely spends money at the places that are "doing good" this may be sufficient.  It is probably a step in the right direction, of course - but to quote an old adage which applies "Do your giving while you're living so you're knowing where it's going" - the concept being, of course, that once the money leaves your hands it may or may not go where it is supposed to go, and that any organization that is not a well run charity inevitably eats up money in overhead.

So how should Christians practice charity?

One suggestion, based on C.S. Lewis' quote yesterday, is give generously.  To the point that it "pinches" us a bit (I use that word in quotes as if by "pinching" we define things as we cannot afford small luxuries, it is hardly a pinch).  A second and required one is, of course, to continue to give to our local church.  If we have made the commitment to it we are commanded to support it.

The third is to give strategically.

What do I mean?  Example:  the church my wife is employed at, once a year, does a single day mass offering for a local Christian based charity.  This is not a charity they are associated with deeply.  This is not to replace the regularly weekly giving.  This is a one time over the top act of generosity for which the intention is to drastically change the course of that charity.

Imagine if Christians gave like this - not just as we are to do per Scripture - but on top of that in a way that strategically blessed both specific ministries and the people served by them.  Imagine if a city was able to say "Hunger? Homelessness?  If people are hungry and homeless in this place, it is because they choose to be.  The Christians here have made it such that the resources are freely available to all who need it."

One thought as we ponder this for tomorrow's posting:  if Christians, if the Church, gave like this, what would it look like to the world?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Of Cups and Charity

I have been weighing - in a sad sort of bemused, "I really do not want to think about it" way - about the ongoing kerfuffle that is the Starbucks cup controversy.  On the one hand you have group of Christians proclaiming that Starbucks has proclaimed "War on Christmas" while on the other hand you have a group stating that this is simply not the question and those who are offended are simply being overly hurt about a simple cup. There is a third group as well, those (Christian and otherwise) who state that it should not not matter what Starbucks does.  Go act like a Christian (and depending on if you are a believer or not the answer varies what that actually means) and simply ignore the whole thing.

(You know I do not do politics or religious controversy on this site; trust me, this is not going where you think this is going).

For the record, I think everyone involved - every one of the three sides listed above - is acting like a damn fool.  But that is not the point.

My point is really directed towards those who profess Christ.  And I think it is a bit bigger than whether or not we should be concerned about a cup of anything, let alone coffee.

More directly, the question is whether we should be concerned about coffee at all.

The simple reality is that we are commanded to do good, to live out God's love and God's commandments, to demonstrate both His love and His purity.  His purity, His commandments, are something which we as individuals have to live out before others.  His love, we live out in the community around us.

And there are needs.  This should surprise no-one.  Serious needs, the sort of needs that the church of Christ should be uniquely qualified to address (we do, after all, have a relationship with the God of the Universe.  He has been known to address a problem or two).

So the question is, how are we spending our lives, our time, and our money?

Are they dedicated to us?  Are we so concerned about this here, this now, that we must meet our every desire?  Has something as simple as fancy coffee become such a need for us that are willing to do battle over the cup it comes in?

I have to rank myself in this mess as well. I am far too concerned with my own agenda.  I have my lists as I am sure you have yours: lists of things I want, places I want to go, things I want to do.  All about me.  All about mine.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity  “I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare…If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us,… they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditures excludes them.”     This, I submit, needs to be the starting point for all of our spending and charitable giving - remember it was the widow that gave all that Christ commended, not the rich that gave little.

What does this mean on a practical level?  In a very embarrassing (or should be embarrassing) sense, simply start with the question "Do I spend more on _______ (fancy coffee, food, books, insert anything here) than I give?"

Hurts, does it not?

Is there something inherently wrong with Starbucks coffee?  Not at all - but if I spend more on Starbucks than I give to the work of God (in whatever form), then I have a problem that all the complaining or inane words about "sharing the love of Christ over a Peppermint Mocha" will not wash away.

For me, what does that mean?  It might mean something as simple as taking the money I would spend on Starbucks (not that I go there that often) or on a lunch and give it.  Give it to the Church.  Give it to the Christian charity of your choice.  Consciously. Willingly.  Silently.  And hopefully.

Will this save the world?  Quite probably not - if correctly done, the world will not know it was done at all  ("Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" - Matthew  6:3).  But good will be done.  And through the organization or Church, God will be glorified.

Does this mean I can never enjoy any of the things I would like?  I do not think so - but it does mean I should act responsibly.  Do I like coffee?  Make it at home - if you are dying for good coffee (or so I understand) and want to help out some Brothers, try Mystic Monk coffee (do good, enjoy good).  Or find a group (arguably for Christians, we should try to start with a Christian group and then work from there if we cannot find one) that offers the thing we want. It may be a little more expensive - but the expensive includes enabling them to the do the good we are called to do.

I do not know that my thinking is fully developed on this - and I will probably take a few more blog posts to get through this.  But there is a root here, a root that needs exposing and pulling.  I would argue this is a moment of great opportunity for followers of Christ.  We can make a difference in a way that no-one else can.  But we will hardly get there by either arguing over cups - or asserting that our needs trump the requirements of the charity commanded us.



Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Six Days A Week

So yesterday we bought a new to us van.

This was not the way I intended to start the day.  But the van had another go around this weekend and the cost for the repairs reached the point that it was more than the van would be worth - and that would be if there were no other issues with it.  Even I am forced to work on some level of financial sense in that respect.

But that is not really the point of today's post.

While I was there, I asked our salesman - a younger sort of fellow - how he ended up selling cars.

This is a question I have learned to ask others, especially in situations where I do not otherwise know what to say.  I am always interested in how people ended up where they are, especially in something like car sales, where it is not a career that a lot of people think of going into.

He said he had been doing it about three years and had sort of stumbled into it - had been doing manual labor sorts of jobs up to that point and a friend asked him if he wanted to try it.  "I was nervous about walking up to people and asking them if they wanted to spend money" he said "but then someone told me 'that is what they are there for -to spend money.'"  He said the rewarding part of the job was helping people get cars when they thought their credit was too poor and that overall he did not mind the work too much.

The only thing that he did mind a bit was theyhours - six days a week with one day off.  He is a hunter and said that it made it more difficult with only one day off (Sunday), but what were you going to do.

The one day off thought buried itself in my brain as we moved to the finance manager - mid-forties, a four year old daughter.  Chatting away with him as we filled out the innumerable forms and signed I glanced above his desk at his schedule: six days a week with Tuesdays off in his case.

By the time were done we had probably exceeded both of these gentlemen's scheduled hours by 40 minutes.

It has been a long time since I have had to work anything more than five days a week - and it is now almost 7 years beyond the days of having no job at all and over 10 years since the days of the Firm, where income did not really match expenses.  In my forgetful sort of way, I do not recall as often as I should what those days were like - or even worse, the days before I came into the industry at all where I was working retail and teaching to make ends meet.

There is nothing more noble about working six days any more than there is something more valuable about working five days- the thing that stuck with me as I drove home - that feeling of effort and doing what it takes to make ends meet.

I complain - probably more than I should - about what I do right now.  There are seemingly numberless reasons why things are not what they should be (and if you have read here long enough, you may be familiar with some of them).  But for all of that I have a lot of benefits that lots of others do not have, like only working five days a week or vacation or even reasonable benefits.

Am I thankful for them?  Or am I always consumed by how inconvenient things feel and how unhappy I think I am, wanting something more fulfilling?  Perhaps the fulfillment is not so much in what I do but in what it allows me to do.  Perhaps if I looked more to the benefits of what it accomplishes in my life and less about how I feel I might change perspective.

Because I am sure to a great many number of people out there, 5 days a week that covered the bills would seem like the promised land.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Friday, November 06, 2015

Always Playing Defense

Today I had my every other week meeting with my boss.  We talked, as we always do, about the goings on in the department and any emergencies.  And then he asks the question he has always come to ask:  "Is there anything bothering you?"

Why yes, yes there was.

I expressed my concern about a new marketing initiative that has been rolled out by our sales group, a fairly encompassing one that seems to involve a heck of a lot of change for (from my vantage point) not a lot of benefit. My concern, I told him, was that in the entire presentation they did not mention anything about the function of my department - a function, I pointed out, that ultimately allows to do business in most global markets.

He thought about it for a moment and then agreed.  He pointed out that what we do is something that is never really appreciated the way it should be - "It is like playing defense"  he said.

I must have looked a bit quizzical, because he continued.  "My child plays soccer.  He is a defender.  As a defender, you get blamed for all the goals scored against  you. If your team scores a goal, everyone celebrates the offense.  But no-one celebrates the defense and they only seem to get remembered if something gets through.  Does it make sense?"

I concurred that it did, both from Nighean Dhonn's years in soccer and my following of hockey.  I was well aware of the fact that the defense seldom gets accolades, only blame.

"It is like that for what we do as well"  he said.  "Everything can happen upstream and everyone celebrates but all the bad decisions, bad designs, complaints from customers - it all becomes our department's fault.  We are the ones that get blamed."

We talked for a few more moments about other things and then we sailed off to our separate destinations.  But his thought stuck with me all day.

Playing defense.  As I continued to ponder the thought, let the words roll around in my head, I realized that this was precisely what I have been doing for most of my life.  Playing defense.  Trying to avoid things getting through to something else, avoid things going wrong, avoid getting blamed.

We all have to play some level of defense, I suppose.  We all have to make sure that things go well and bad things do not get through.  But playing a defender for years upon end is wearing.  It trains you to think a certain way:  to avoid letting things through rather than trying to push things through to score.  It becomes a way of living that is reactive rather than proactive, of trying to shore up walls rather than thinking of ways to attack the enemy and their walls.

If I think about the totality of my life I am forced to admit there are only a handful of times that I have not played defense.  Professionally, this has only happened four times: when I got a manager's job from my cousin out of college so I could move back to my hometown, when I took a job teaching, when I left a job teaching to get into my current industry, and when I took the leap to work at the Firm.  4 times over 25 years.   Not an impressive count.  My personal life probably rates higher, as I would count every time I have tried a new thing and succeeded (even partially) as a victory.

But why the difference?  Why is professional so different from personal?

Because in personal, all the risk and results are under my control.

It is like my recent gains - and my continued improvement over four years - in Highland Games.  All of this is 100% under my control.  There is nothing for me to defend in the case - only goals for me to attack.

Professional is different.  Professional - at least for what I have done for almost 20 years now - is a constant battle of defense.  I cannot control of most the factors that control my job.  Bad decisions upstream make my life difficult, but I have little ability to influence them.  I can see the disaster coming but I can do little to blunt the results.  All I can do is brace for impact.

I am deeply tired of playing defense.  I am not sure how to rectify this issue immediately but I have a pretty good idea of how to start:  throw open the gates, come down off the wall, and start advancing.

It may be a really good way to get cut down - or to cut your way through.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Important and Urgent

Yesterday I tried to pay attention to what I was doing. Using the Urgent/Important grid, I tried to filter my activities through it such that I was making the best use of my time, doing both urgent things as well as important things.

But not everybody sees things the same way.

What I found was that people - via voice or person or e-mail - kept showing up with their issues.  And all of their issues are important, things that must (in their world) be dealt with right now.

I had never seen it that way before - oh certainly, I have encouraged people to come ask questions and want to be a resource.  But maybe for the first time, what I found is that people's view of important and my view of my time are at odds.

The reality is this: people come because they want their problem solved.  But sometimes (I am not sure how often at this point) it is more of a reaction by others to not have to do the hard work, to bring the issue to your attention in hopes that you will solve it.  Or, perhaps more disappointingly, they will bring the problem to you with the solution in mind but not reveal what their solution is, hoping that you will either confirm it or suggest a better one.

The reality is that most people have far better ideas than they think and often know what they should do.  Where it breaks down is that they seem to lack the self confidence to express these ideas - instead, they hope that someone will confirm the idea independently.

I know that these are slightly different problems.  I also know that both of them are destroying my life.

It explains why I feel drained when I leave the work every day - I spend a great deal of time applying to others to help them, always draining the bank account and seldom refilling it.  I also leave with few of the things I need to get accomplished being done; I am often trying to help others do their jobs.

What I am going to do about this?  Not sure, really.  I almost lost it yesterday on someone, which is also not a long term plan for success.  But neither can I continue to relapse into always doing things for others (any others - not just reports and peers but managers as well).

The way is there before me.  I just have to make sense of it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Of Stones and Success

So something happened for two Games in a row that has never happened before: I did not come in last in every event.

The events of choice?  Braemar Stone and Open Stone.  In both cases my throws exceed someone - perhaps not by much, but by some.

This is something I would never have predicted.

I am not an athlete by nature (or at least, I never thought I was) and the point of this exercise is not to glory specifically in my own abilities - after all, ultimately we compete against ourselves.  The point, however, is to understand what has brought to the point that I am at least minimally competitive in something that is not something I would have said is in my mental DNA.  In other words, why can I not take this kind of focus and effort and pour it into every other area of my life.

Imagine: If I can do this in approximately 4 years with something I have never done before, what could I accomplish if I was doing it in something I was already skilled at?  What is the thing that enables me to push forward in this area when in so many others I feel like I am simply on hold?

My initial thoughts were not all that grand.  It is something I enjoy - but that is something that is not necessarily that transferable to other things.  It is something that I can quantify progress in - but again, not necessarily that transferable to other things.  And it is something that I do not worry about failing in.

Hello, what is that?

I do not worry about failing in Highland Athletics - if I have a bad game or bad event, I merely move on to the next thing.  And it is not like I ever really fail - just by competing and continuing to compete, I succeed.

But this does not feel true in the rest of my life.

Things have consequences - or perhaps I merely put consequences on them.  Call it old habits of the perfectionist - if I cannot do it well, I will simply stop doing it.  Or, if I cannot move forward in doing it but cannot quit it, I will simply slowly lose interest until doing it feel like doing something something in rote.

So how do I change this?  The answer is seems surprisingly simple:

1)  Do not worry about succeeding or failing.  Simply do. If you fail, just let it go and move on.
2)  Where possible, do things that you enjoy.  You will always do things that enjoy better.
3)  Figure out some way - any way - to quantify progress and keep track.  You work better with goals or targets to hit.

The question is, is this as simple as it seems?  And if so, can I implement it?

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Monday, November 02, 2015

Why I Throw

Yesterday I had the purest form of Highland Games I have every participated in.

It was in a pasture owned by someone who, for his birthday, decided he wanted to have Highland Games.  The competitors were all known to each other, all Masters (over 40).  There were only a few friends of the birthday man there to watch - no crowds, no announcer, just 7 throwers (5 men, 2 women) under warm November skies in a pasture.  One trig to throw from, one set of standards to throw over.  That and the implements were all.

It was the greatest of all throwing days.

Why?  Because this was the very origin of the Highland Games themselves:   friends and associates coming together to throw to challenge themselves and each other to feats of strength.  No glory but in achievements, no cheers but that of their friends.  No prizes but of the simplest sort - except the badge of participation, which is ultimately all any Highland athlete can lay claim to.

People sometimes ask me why I throw.  I am certainly neither the youngest nor the strongest on the field. And it is seldom that I walk away from the field with more than a t-shirt to show I participated.  There is little glory to be gained and certainly no prize money to be had.

I throw because I can.

I throw because 99.9% of the world will never do what I do - for many, they would never dream of trying what I am doing.  I throw because every time I hurl a stone or weight or line up to a caber, I am trying to better myself, become a little more excellent.  I am trying to achieve a little bit more.

And I am surrounded by people doing exactly the same thing.  Seeking to better themselves, to become more excellent at what they do as well.

And we all do it in one big happy group, full of jokes (sometimes coarse) and jeers.  And underlying it all, a sense of brotherhood.  And (if you asked them to look deep down in their souls) love.

We came to celebrate our friend.  And we came to do what we love - not for money, not for glory, but for greatness.  For greatness in ourselves.  For the greatness we see in our friends when they throw.

I went home with a roll of athletic tape and a container of deer chili.  And a mind full of memories of doing something I love so very much with the people I love.

It was a very good day.