Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Clarity and Commitment

I often lack clarity of purpose and commitment to purpose.

Clarity of purpose? I am not ever (perhaps never) really clear on my purpose or purposes in life. What this leads to is a wandering off track, a following of rabbit trails hither and yon as the mood takes me. Not that rabbit trails are bad in and of themselves: I have learned a great many things which I otherwise would not have.

Commitment to purpose? I am one of the worst commiters (if that is even a word) in history. I have learned to carry myself as far as I can on natural ability, but when things become difficult - i.e. I have to actually learn and practice something - I magically "lose" my interest, usually for another rabbit trail.

The result: my life as I know it. Feeling lost and trapped in a series of situations I do not control, unable to find my way towards something meaningful and of value.

This has to stop.

I had written some time ago about (say April) about purposes and roles I wanted to fill (again, a lovely exercise I never completed). Looking at it now, although I like the concept I still think it a bit too complex (although that doesn't excuse finishing it, which I should still do). I need to narrow the purposes down even more, to get to the core of what I believe (in the absence of any other information) I should be doing.

Maybe that's one problem I have: I keep looking for a sign, a guidepost, something to suggest what it is I should be doing. Perhaps I need to approach it from the other point of view: unless I get a sign or guidance that I shouldn't be doing something, I need to to continue down paths that I have chosen.

Because let's be honest: what I've done to this point is not really working.

Friday, May 27, 2011


A funny thing happened to me on the way to the enthusiasm department.

An e-mail came from my daughters' school asking about the interest in having an after school Latin program. I, of course, love Latin - but seldom use it - so in my response I indicated that if they needed some assistance I would be happy to do so (I believe the term "I'm nerdy that way" may have been used).

Yesterday, I got a response - a question about if I knew Latin.

Nothing may come of this - but in that moment, between the volunteering and the response, I felt something I haven't felt in a while around something: enthusiasm.

Yes, it will probably go nowhere and yes, even if it does it would be completely volunteer. But still, to feel that moment of elation, to feel that something that one is interested in may be able to be done - what a feeling.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Garden Reflections

"They say time changes things, but you have to change them yourself." - Andy Warhol

Sitting at my computer, looking out at the backyard and garden this morning, listening to the morning birds chant.

Having completed watering my garden, I am reminded of the fact that this simple act - watering, growing, harvesting, and eventually eating - brings a deep level of satisfaction that few other things do in my life. It also brings pleasant and simple surprises: looking this morning, I noticed that my tomato plant continues to grow strongly and has blossoms. My onions seeds are not doing so well but behold: a volunteer of something has emerged. Is it a squash? A cantaloupe? A cucumber? I don't know, but time will tell.

My soybeans are growing well - in both locations. Do I replant in both locations next year? And my wheat is ready to pull down for drying and harvest as well. What am I going to plant there this year - dare I risk the corn that did not do so well last year, or is there something else I should be trying?

It's these small adventures in garden that seem to give color and texture to the humdrum existence of my 8-7 life of "career". I can honestly say this brief time this morning in the garden will by far eclipse anything in importance or scope that I will perform or do at work today.

Planning, growing, nurturing, harvesting - these are the touchstones of my life that bring me joy, be they in the living form of plants or animals or in the form of creative works or even in the form of interactions with friends and family. It is a poignant reminder of the fact that there is a chasm of disconnect between what I do and who I am.

"I decided I didn't want to be a consultant for the rest of my life. And if I didn't want to be a consultant for the rest of my life, why should I be a consultant tomorrow?" - Jim Koch, founder and chairman of The Boston Beer Company

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Suffering from an intense feeling of burnout at work.

I can tell you when it changed, almost to the date. It was the day that suddenly my schedule was changed not to meet a business need but to meet a personal preference.
With this event, what was suddenly revealed to me was that I was not a valued colleague or team member (words I detest, actually) but that I was merely a servant - an item to be made available on a shelf, like a mug or coaster.

That day, the fires of enthusiasm burned out. Work was no longer a thing to be engaged in based on my own decision process as an adult meeting the requirements, but rather a thing to be done to please others.

But this was only the initial draining process. What compounds it is a growing sense that nothing changes: the problems we face are the problems we faced two years ago, the advice offered too often feel ignored. Most of all a sense, a nagging sense, that we seem to be heading in the direction of no direction at all.

I'll be frank: this makes it harder and harder to get up to go to work in the morning. There comes a sense that work has become a sort of Twilight Zone, a region where surface activities continue on in the face of a reality that is different, moving deck chairs as the ship continues to a rendezvous with destiny in which deck chairs - or even ships themselves - have no relevance.

How does one restore one's enthusiasm as the waves break on the dual rocks of irrelevance and pointlessness?

Monday, May 23, 2011


Yesterday I went in the nicest house I have ever been in in my life.

It was one of those houses, perfectly constructed of materials that I love and spotlessly maintained, done in tile and iron, that makes you take your breath away.

And, of course, it had the expected result: I was grumpy all the way home.

This was the house I was supposed to have. This was supposed to be the outcome of The Firm: A house just like that, with a pool like that (oh, the pool. It was beautiful). That was supposed to be my life.

Naturally, every comparison with where you were and where you are immediately leaps to mind: the yard which sometimes has grass or sometimes weeds, the house items spread all throughout it like a hurricane passed through, the mismatched collection of items which one has collected through the years rather than a unified whole.

But the next thing that popped into my head was, of course, the Bible verse I had been working on the week before, Hebrews 13:5

"Keep your life free from covetousness. Be content with what you have. For He Himself has said 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'"

Funny that. It's as if God knew on the previous Monday where I would be the following Sunday and acted accordingly ("Memorize this verse").

So all the way home I tried to shed coveteousness. I tried to be happy for those that have such things. I tried to be grateful (not well, mind you) for all those things that I did have.

And then, at home, I saw the pictures from Joplin, Missouri.

Suddenly my processes changed 180 degrees. Now it was not a question of coveteousness, it was a question of being grateful that I was alive, let alone that my house was not reducted to a pile of lumber.

It's amazing how 30 seconds can change one's perspective.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Conducting my morning readings this morning, I was reminded again of the fact that I will simply never a large scale user of electronic books. Ever.

I like books. I like the pleasure (I can think of no other term) of hardback books when I open them, the look and feel of the dustcover and I open the book. Or with paperbacks, the bend of the paper as you continue in, the fact that in books I have loved and read often one can find the sweat marks from my fingers and the wearing away of the covers.

I like the fact that when I find something, I can underline or highlight and just by flipping through the book later, I can relocate it - or given enough time and familiarity, the fact that I can have idea just by the book where a certain phrase or passage can be.

I love the fact that books -hard back or paper - can be slipped into a bag or into my hand as I go about the day, to be pulled out and read at leisure or need.

I love the fact that used book stores exist for used books.

I love the fact that my books are available to me on their shelves as I walk by. Seeing their covers, they become like old friends, reminding me of specific times when I read this book or that and where I read it.

I love the reminder of opening a book and finding something I used as a bookmark before: a receipt, a plane ticket, a random piece of paper. I love - perhaps even more - when I find a used book where the previous reader has done the same thing: Suddenly I am swept out to a dry cleaner in Wisconsin or a grocery store in Oregon, circa 1983.

I love the fact that books are a physical that impart intangibles.

I love books.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The List of Doom

How do I move myself to the next step?

Looking at my List of Doom at work with its 390-odd uncompleted tasks, I find myself strangely unmotivated to do any of them. Yes, they are important and yes, they sit there silently staring at me from the computer screen, but their impact on me seems to bounce off.

On the one hand, this task list has been a great activity: for the first time in my work life (at least, perhaps my real life as well) I have a single location of everything that I have to do. Have a free minute? No problem - just consult the List of Doom and let it tell you what the next steps should be.

On the other hand, I have never had a greater categorization of the trivialities that consume my day than now. Looking at my list, I can see the things that consume my working life and realize how (in many cases) pointless they are. Release of documents? There will be more tomorrow. Training plans? I'll get them done, but then I have to audit - and then, is there any guarantee it will make an difference in how people work?

But it does bring up a really good point: do I have a List of Doom for my personal life?

The reality is this: like the List or hate it, it has given me (for the first time in my life) a metric by which I can evaluate what I'm doing and how I'm doing in terms of what I need to accomplish. My work life is more organized for it (better, I'm not willing to say).

But what about my personal life? What about all those other things I'd like to do? Yes, I understand that a personal life is not as conveniently timed as work, but it none the less obeys the same laws of accomplishment as anything else: don't do anything, don't get anything done.

As I said, it's not pleasant to go into work and see everything that remains undone- but at least I know what is undone and what I need to do.

If I treated my personal life in the same fashion, what could I accomplish?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Stupid, The Inept, and The Self Confident

Over the last 3-4 weeks I have had the opportunity to spend time with a number of individuals who in one form or fashion are exceeding me in position, responsibility and power (and, I assume, money as well). I tend to be a creature of the system, assuming that people have reached their positions (and continue to hold them) due to their knowledge, intellect and keen decision making abilities.

What I've been reminded of is a truth that I have known for a long time: they're not really any smarter than I am.

I don't know why this shocks me. I (of all people) am well aware that there are people far more brilliant than me in all walks of life. I guess I've always believed that it translated into moving up the ladders of success.

Instead, the lesson again has been that this is no necessarily true.

I don't write this morning out of the sense of decrying a system that rewards this - indeed, the system simply exists (and has existed) probably since the invention of any hierarchical human relationship. Instead, I write first to myself and then to you, gentle reader, as a reminder that in fact, most boundaries are simply those of our own making.

Too often we come under the spell that others ahead of us are more intelligent, more talented, more __________ (fill in the blank) than we are. We start to pull back on our efforts, settling for a lower level of achievement because we believe that those ahead of us are simply light years better - and that we will always be behind them.

The reality is this: maybe that is true. On the other hand, skills other than intelligence and talent allow some to rise to the top of the pool.

Have faith in what God has given you. Have faith that He has given you abilities far beyond what you think you are capable of (all of us, at any level, do far less than we can). Believe yourself to be as intelligent, as competent, as potentially talented as any of the competition?

Feel like you're lacking? Train yourself. Educate yourself. Stretch yourself. Yes, there is a limit above which we all cannot go personally, but we will more likely than not die long before we reach it.

Learn what you can where you are - but if The Stupid and The Inept continue rule where you are, at some point move on. Don't fall into the trap of believing "Because I don't have X, I can never get to Y."

Maybe that's true. Probably not - there's always a road to the brave traveler who knows their destination, even if they don't see the road to get there.

But never - never! - settle for the thought that "I can't, because I'm not _____". There's another word for this phrase, one that will follow us down to the grave with its mocking laughter:


Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Fighting purposelessness this morning.

My current line of work seems to be reaching its end. By my account, every company I have worked for has been purchased, gone out of business, or has been involved in an ethical scandal. Virtually all of the products I worked on prior to 2006 have disappeared. In a real sense, 8 years of work resulted in nothing - and the other 5 don't hold out great promise for success.

This knowledge makes the current job that much more difficult.

It's difficult to generate enthusiasm for something which personal history demonstrates will go into the ashcan of history with little fanfare and smaller impact.

It occurs to me that this is the moment of truth: when what one has spent the bulk of one's life on (intended or forced) has been revealed to be a purposeless morass of effort, how does one find the courage and purpose to go on?

Because life goes on. When I complete this, I will head off to another day of labor which holds no more promise of purpose than any of the approximately 4745 industry days preceding it.

I could, I suppose, try to put the spin on things that I am supposed to, that what really matters is God is in control and obviously I'm here for some kind of reason. My job is to endure and be fruitful.

But the unpleasant reality is that I don't feel that in my heart. All I feel is this aching void of another day of shifting papers, marking tasks as "closed", trying to pretend that this is anything other than what it seems to be: an exercise in purposelessness, a creation of things destined to fade or be packed away, forgotten except for the time involved in creating them.

May Moon

The morning May moon
melts buttery yellow down
a purple blue sky.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The To Don't List

Delving into the riches of books that have wandered their way into my possession thanks to birthday gifts, I have spent the weekend in a semi-comatose state taking in the joy of reading.

Among the books that I purchased was Weird: Because Normal Isn't Working by Craig Groeschel. I originally heard the author on Dave Ramsey's show; he sounded interesting enough so I got the book - and let's be honest, anything with weird in it probably speaks to me on some level.

The book is broken down into five sections: Time, Money, Relationships, Sex, and Values (nice, because it allows one to re-read it multiple times for different things). The one that called out to me in particular this time was, well, time.

What would you do, Groeschel asks, if God gave you another hour a day, or even an extra day of the week? Would you invest it in things that matter - or would you, like myself, probably just find more things to do with the time that I was not doing now. Unimportant things. Things that probably don't matter.

It's not that we lack time, says Groeschel - we have enough time to do all that God has commanded us to do. It's that we don't have a greater awareness of the time we have - when, he asks, do we have time to be in the present moment?

Among his other suggestions, Groeschel recommends a "To Don't" list - a list put together by us consciously which categorizes the things which we we won't do:

"While normal people continue to add items to their to-do list, maybe you should do something weird instead: start a to-don't list. Just this year alone, I've dropped seven things that I normally do to make room for those important things I thought didn't have time to do. I'd like to challenge you to stop reading and start your to-don't list. Maye you should do something weird and write down at least three activities in your life that you're going to drop. Put something down and let it go. (p.34)"

Clever folks will recognize this as a different version of Stephen Covey's Urgent versus Important concept, Putting First Things First. In fact, it's the negative reverse image of this: instead of identifying what is truly important, start with identifying what is truly not important. Add it to the list.

Having read this, what's on my list? I'm embarassed to say I have no idea yet. I'm the worst sort of time manager: everything I have on my list is "important" and needs to be done.

But for whom? For what?

Yesterday, for example, I made time to do two activities which of late have been sadly lacking in my own life: music on the harp and writing. In both cases they proved again to me how wonderful they are in the fact that in both cases, I simply lost track of time doing them. Things such as these, that cause you to lose time, are the things of the heart that need to be done.

Which is fine for a Sunday. But what about Monday through Friday, in the midst of the important "work" I have to do? The reality is if those are important, I will find other things which can go onto the "To Don't" list.

It's not that we don't have the time, it's just that we don't have the time to do everything. What's on your "To Don't" list?

Sunday, May 15, 2011


As mentioned earlier, as part of this sense that God has something for me to learn, I’ve working on Psalm 25: 4-5 and some accompanying references. One of them is Proverbs 3: 5-7:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And do not rely on your own insights.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will direct your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes:
Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.”

I’ve known these verses – have known them for years, in fact. But lying in bed this morning, I was suddenly caught by the word “acknowledge.”

There are two general senses in which most people use acknowledge. The first sense – the sense most often used – is that of making reference to something or guiding attention to it – for example, in a speeches such as “I’d like to acknowledge my parents for helping do this” or “We acknowledge the university for allowing the use of these prints.

But if you pick up your Strong’s Concise Concordance KJV (I’m sure you all have yours right there on the shelf) you’ll find something a bit different.

If you go to “acknowledge” (go ahead, do it) you’ll find that it appears only 12 times. In those uses, there are two types: one when used when talking about men (Deuteronomy 21:17, “But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife…”; Deuteronomy 33:9 “But he did not acknowledge his brethren…”) and those used when talking about God.

When talking about God or in reference to God, the sense changes away from a mere knowing or nodding of the head to a recognition of an authority or situation:

Psalm 51:3 “For I acknowledge my transgression…”
Isaiah 33:13: “And you who are near, acknowledge my might.”
Jeremiah 14:20 “We acknowledge, O LORD, our transgression”

How does this apply? Because for years I’ve always interpreted things the first way: that to acknowledge God was to make reference to Him in my life and in my decisions. But that’s really not what God wants: He doesn’t want to be another philosophy I consult or idea I consider or even first among equals (Read in 1st and 2nd Kings about how God views worshipping Himself plus anything), he wants to be sovereign over my life. He wants me to acknowledge His authority over all that I do – that in all my ways, His ways (as brought out in His book) are the ones that take precedence over all others, even my own.

This is a hard thought for me to process. It changes deeply how I consider things and how I act. It’s not if something seems right to me, even morally – it’s what God says about it.

I say this as if it were a hard thing – but look at the promise given by the writer Solomon: “And He shall direct your paths.” Can you imagine anything more trustworthy, more guaranteed, than having the sovereign omnipotent omnipresent Lord of the Universe walking with you, directing you in the ways that are best to go? Romans 8:28 says “We know that everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose”. To know that even in bad times, when things seem grim, that we are not there of our own bad decisions or failures but because God is walking with us, guiding us?

But if I want the promise, I must accept the condition: can I, on a minute by minute basis, acknowledge God in all I do by acting and believing and behaving as He says, not what I say? Or will I, like I have done too often in the past, merely continue to view Him as one of another things I have to consult when I go about my daily life? One leads to a morass of decisions made merely on human wisdom, the other to a life guiding by the God of the Universe Himself.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Creature Called Contentment

What is the nature of contentment?

Drive is something which our society thrives on - indeed, drive is something without which much of civilization would not exist. Without the drive to do better, to innovate, to improve we would still be using outhouses, well water, and leeches.

But is what is true for the advancement of technology and civilization true for the advancement of the human heart?

"More, More, Bigger, Bigger" is the subtle refrain that often seems to run through our lives. We work to advance our grades in school, we work to advance our careers at work, we work to increase our holdings of many things. Try and bring contentment into the discussion and often you'll just get a strange look.

Contentment is a strange creature. To suggest that you will be satisfied with where you are, with what you have is often to be viewed as "crazy" - or more accurately, "does not show initiative". And there is a danger there - what we claim as contentment can really disguise a problem with sloth or indolence, which is not really contentment at all but a failure to use those talents and gifts which we have been given.

But all of that said, contentment is still something which seems to elude me far more than I seem to have a problem with the excuse of sloth. When I'm looking at my life - my career, my hobbies, how I spend my time - is the first thought in my mind "is this enough?" or is it "I need more"?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Talking to God

God was trying to talk to me last night.

This concept can be alarming to some people when I bring it up. The idea - even in Christian circles - that God still interacts with individuals in a way that they feel He is talking them is something which is often taken to the extreme of dreams and prophecies which often seem to have more in common with what the individual believes than any sense of God.

Allow me to clarify a few things:

1) When I say God wants to talk to me, it's not an actual audible voice. There is just a sense on my soul that God wants to "talk" to me - show me something, guide me in some direction. I've learned over the years that if I don't stop what I'm doing right then and listening, that sense of God - and that opportunity - will go away.

2)When I say God talks to me, I don't mean to say I always get what He is trying to tell me. So often - even like last night - I'm not sure I get precisely what I am supposed to. I'm sure this must frustrate Him to no end.

What was the actual point of the conversation?

I'm not quite sure. My reading lead me in two directions: one, to Phil Vischer's Me, Myself and Bob, his biography about the creation and dissolution of Big Idea and what he learned (including the loss of dreams and starting over), and Psalm 25:4-5:

"Show me Thy ways, O Lord;
Teach me Thy paths.
Lead me in Thy truth and teach me,
For Thou art the God of my salvation;
For Thee I wait all the day long."

What was the message? Maybe to consider what my dreams are, maybe to trust God more, to seek Him out and wait on Him for direction.

But I often wonder if part of the whole exercise is merely to see if I will listen; if I will stop everything I'm doing and turn my attention completely to God to hear what He has to say. Perhaps the point of the exercise is not so much communication (although that's good) as it is obedience. Because in the end, if you read the Bible, you'll find that God really only communicates to any depth with those who take the time to listen to him when He speaks.

And I will say this: even in the times when I don't feel that I got anything out of the conversation, the fact that I stopped and listened alone makes me feel like I got something out of the experience.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Temporal Music

I'm finding that I am increasingly frustrated with myself - no, more precisely, frustrated with my situation. I was lamenting to Silverline yesterday that with the change in schedule, it feels like I have less time to accomplish everything that I need to do. "What do you mean?" she replied? "You have the same amount of time, just shifted."

"I know that in theory" was my reply, "it just suddenly feels like there is less time, not more. I take my time in 15 and 20 minutes driblets."

Starting anything is always difficult, not matter what. Trying to start something - in my case, a job or career change - when you feel your time has evaporated feels like you are pushing a heavy rock up a hill like: every time you think you are making progress or even stop to take rest, the rock slips back on you.

Or is this an illusion? Has time always been this limited, this precious - and only now that I need every second of it do I see it?

It some ways it has become the dominating factor of my life. I can now tell you, within 5 minute intervals, what I have worked on at work and how much a percentage of my day it has been. Likewise, I can tell you all the chunks of time - excluding family - that I have spent during the times I am not at work.

I find this a hideous way to live. One's life becomes controlled by the clock and minutes. I start shaving minutes off of lunch, begrudging people the time to talk, becomomg incensed that I do not "accomplish" all that I need to do. Interestingly, the more I track time, the less I realize I am accomplishing - not because of the tracking itself, but rather that the opportunity cost of time is made blindingly clear: by doing X, I am not doing Y. And Y does not go away, it is just assumed that it will be accomplished with "extra" time.

How do I break free of this tyranny of the clock, the chains of the temporal music which with regularity fill my day? How do I begin the process of starting - or restarting - that which is truly most important when the very seconds themselves seem to mock my attempts?

I do not know. All I know is that time has suddenly become infinitely more precious to me, and the thought of wasting on things of lesser value has become increasingly more painful. My life needs to become dominated by the march of the important, not the lesser tunes of the time fillers.

Monday, May 09, 2011


We do not value maintenance.

Maintenance, for those that wonder, is the act or state of maintaining something. Maintenance is a critical function to mechanical systems. Without maintenance, your car will eventually explode, your air conditioner will give up the ghost, your yard will overrun you in a tangle of weeds and vines.

The same is true of us: we need time and resources to maintain ourselves.

Our physical bodies - for certain. We take for granted (sometimes shockingly so) that we will continue to function day after day in the same state we are in. There's always time to do work, we tell ourselves, but not enough time to insure that things like exercise or sleep or good eating. These, we seem to reason, can be squeezed in around the margins (after all, what we are doing right now is so terribly important)so what's the worry. Then we fall asleep when commuting, or collapse after going up a hill, or go to the doctor's and get the news that we didn't expect to hear. Suddenly, we seem to find the time.

Our mental selves - equally as well, although this is far more difficult for most of us to see or argue. We become so consumed by what we are doing - if at work, with the urgent things that need to get done, if at home, with the major things that need to get done when we are not at work - that we let the maintenance of our intellect, of our souls go by the wayside. We reason that we can (again) squeeze this into the margins, that what we are doing at the moment is so important that we can hold off a little longer, that we can place the down time of the soul into 10 or 15 minute slices of time.

But the same thing that happens physically happens mentally and spiritually: we find ourselves burned out, empty of ideas, sitting in front of our computer with nothing to write (not that it's happened to me personally, of course), wondering why we can't find the energy or time to do anything.

Eventually, of course, the rest of our lives suffer: the work becomes inefficient, the writing becomes strained, our relationships become a series of intersecting moments of our soul down time and theirs, our activities become a series of pointless acts leading nowhere - because we have trained ourselves through busyness that everything must lead to something. The concept that something leads to the betterment of ourselves through rest and intellectual thought but produces nothing escapes farther and farther away, until it is like a foreign language we think we knew but can't translate now.

That maintenance of ourselves is as important as the activities we do seems axiomatic; the fact that almost no-one (including ourselves) sees it this way should concern us a great deal more than it does.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Not Advancing

Linkedin can be a wonderful tool to reconnect with old coworkers who you haven't seen in years. It's always interesting to me to find out where people ended up, what they're doing now and how they've moved over their careers.

However, Linkedin can be a terrible tool to remind you of the state of your professional life.

In casually reviewing the employment histories of a number of former colleagues, I was somewhat shocked to discover that they have all advanced - significantly - in their careers, while I have essentially remained where I was.

Yes, I understand that I took a hiatus to start The Firm. Yes, I understand that not all companies manage or promote the same way. Still, I was shocked to see to the level that some folks have advanced - while I continue to hold the title and responsibility that I held almost 10 years ago when I got promoted to my current title.

Initially I'd ask the question why this has happened: what have they done that I haven't done, what have they mastered that I haven't, why, why, why?

But then a second question comes to mind: is the reason I haven't advanced is simply because this is not where I am most productive?

I've been grappling with the concept more and more that I don't like managing people and I'm not a great delegator. It's not that I don't necessarily dislike my industry (although it is not my heart), but rather that I am a doer liking to understand how things work, not a delegator leaving such things to others. It bothers me a little bit, because (at least in corporate America) doers don't eventually rise to the top. Delegators do.

If I wanted to rise to the top. That's the second issue, I suppose. I've really no want - or desire - to manage large numbers of people. I like working with people I enjoy, but it is more of a primus inter pares relationship - first among equals - rather than a hierarchic reporting structure. I want to counsel and encourage people as friends, not review and direct them as a manager.

Two subtle differences - but differences that may explain why I have not advanced more than I have.

It impacts a lot, I suppose. One thing definitively is where I am now - do I continue this stepping stone attempt across the industry to be where I've always been? Or do I acknowledge these as facts and change my career, dealing with the fact that money (an evil, but a necessary one) is going to be impacted by this?

First lesson of getting out of a hole: Stop digging.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Working with Love and Distaste

"If you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work." - Kahlil Gibran

What does it mean to work with love? I can think of at least two different ways:

1) We work with love when we love what we do. Of course, there will always be those days where things go less smoothly or there are items that we don't like doing in the midst of what we do like - but on the whole, we enjoy our jobs. We feel a deep connection between what is the core of our beings and what we do to earn a living. The work flows smoothly out of our souls, like fresh vanilla frosting over a warm cake.

2) We work with love when we work with love in our hearts. When we love our coworkers, when we express love to our customers and those dependent on our services, when we respond not in anger or bitterness but in grace and kindness, when arriving at work we are prepared to spread happiness and joy through what we do and how we do it, we work with love.

And what of distaste?

1) We work with distaste when we do not love what we do, when the job has become a heavy burden not just to perform, but to be present at. When we have reached the point of listing our 400 tasks and realizing the percentage of completion never really drops, when we have our time carefully mapped not because we are seeking greater productivity but because we are protecting against accusations, when we toil at something that causes us time and again to come against our basic personal convictions and find reasons to override them, when what we do has no connection at all with who we are or what we feel is important - in all of these, we work with distaste.

2) We work with distaste when we have bitterness or anger in our hearts. When seeing our coworkers raises our defenses, when our manager coming into our office does not bring the hope of a useful exchange but only a listing of things which must be done or ways we have not performed, when we arrive in the morning already prepared for another day battle - in all of these, we have bitterness or anger which has moved from our jobs into our hearts.

So which then is better in the long run, to prevent the acid of our bitterness from eating out our soul?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Physical Health, Mental Health

I am becoming reminded every day about the importance of physical health to mental health.

I've never been much of an athlete - my body type tends toward "grounded", and my co-ordination has never been the best (and by best, I mean not co-ordinated at all). Those workouts and sports that I have enjoyed the best are those which can be done individually: running, weights, Iaido. However, I suffer from the unwillingness to persist in anything for a long period of time.

However, as I move into this period of seeming blandness and confusion, I am coming to grips with the fact that my physical health can significantly impact my mental health.

1) Sleep: I've been sleep deprived for years - not only by habit, but by choice. For years I've lived on 6 hours of sleep at night. Ironically, I've not been feeling mentally sharp for years. I wonder if there's a connection. Making the commitment to 7 hours a night, even if it "cuts out" certain activities, is something I need to do.

2) Exercise: Never one to regularly exercise, I'm reminded (as I've started running this week) of how good I feel after I work out. Now that I have a schedule change, it's the perfect time to start incorporating more of that into my life.

3) Diet: This is the worst. I love to eat - more specifically, I love to eat things that are not quite the best for me. However, given a number of things (including my birthday) it's time to start making some of those lifestyle changes I keep thinking I should.

Maybe I can't shake blandness unilaterally with physical health changes, but at least I can try full out and see what happens.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Too Busy

I'm feeling too busy.

It's an odd feeling because I feel caught two ways: on the one hand I have never felt like I am really doing less; on the other, I simply seem to have no time and seem to be accomplishing nothing.

This is somewhat difficult - or seems to be - in the context of trying to reform and reorient my life. One would assume that effectiveness is a prerequisite for change.

I feel caught on a hamster wheel of effort: the more I try and do things, the more I find I am running to try and do things, yet I seem to accomplish nothing. I don't know that I have ever felt less effective in my life.

The only "effective" thing it seems I've done is in the realm of my career - and even now that I'm tracking tasks and priorities and time at work, I am realizing how ineffective I am there as well. The list keeps growing but there are still only so many hours in a day to accomplish anything.

I would say that I would do less, but to do that would be to (in theory) surrender the only things that I potentially enjoy - writing, gardening, music, family, exercise, reading - for that indeterminate block of "Time", which I have no guarantee would be used any better than what it is used for now.

How do I find zest and zeal again? How do I feel more effective and less busy?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Change Your Number and Career

Changing cell phone numbers.

This is one of the inconveniences of the modern age. It's a struggle - the longer you have the number, the more people have it and the more difficult it becomes. You weigh the decision out in your mind more and more - is changing the service worth it, is getting a new phone worth it? Yes, I'd like to not have to type three times to get one letter, but does the hassle of changing over compensate for it (I've had the same number since 2004)?

You crawl through your address list, finding the people you need to contact with your new number. References on the web such as resumes? Those will have to be updated too. Don't forget your voice mail directing everyone to the new number as well.

Finally though, after all the contacting and uploading and downloading, you still have two phones and two numbers in your possession. At some point, you simply have to shut the first one down.

And then I suddenly realized it is the same in real life with a career.

The longer you have a career, the more experience you have in it and the more inertia you have in not making a change. You weigh the decision in your mind - is getting a new career worth it, or can you make do a few more years on the old (the answer here, I think will always eventually be no. Careers you don't like are the same as old cars: at some time, they will simply give out).

Updating is even more difficult than the phone: you have to retool your resume, inventory your skills and resubmit them, change your references on the web, redirect the very substance of your life into a new channel.

And yet, after all that retooling and searching and gearing up, you still have the current career and potential career in hand. Hopefully you've done your homework and are ready. But you still have the two careers.

But like the phone, at some point you just have to shut one down.

The phone I think I can handle. Can I do the same with my career?