Friday, September 28, 2012

Time Wasted

There is nothing worse than the waste of our time by others.

Sure, wasting time is never really a good thing - it's the one ultimately perishable element that can only exist.  It can't be saved, only spent.  It can't be added to or subtracted from, existing only in its final form.

Most everyone wastes time at some point in their lives - for many it's when they're young, for others it may start later in life - or  many continue.  Often times we're conscious of it and perhaps harass ourselves in a kidding sort of way about how we have chosen to use it poorly instead of wisely.

But there is nothing - or at least, very few things- as bad having our time wasted by others.

Time wasted by others take two forms:  the first one is when we are given something to do by someone else that is typically a priority for them but not for us.  This often seems like a useless exercise to us - after all, our work never really went away in the course having to do this other thing - but we are often able to get through it.

The other form is more insidious.

This form is the one where the individual consumes our time by making us spend it with them resolving their issue.

At its worst form, one is not only responsible for resolving the problem, one is responsible for being present the whole time physically. Attempts to state "I'll get to it" are blown aside;  only one's physical presence is considered to be sufficient.  And the issue never seems to be resolved:  again and again over time, we must break off from whatever we are doing to pay attention to the other problem as it is "important".

The reality is that time wasting in this matter is nothing more than an exercise of power.  It's one individual exercising the power they have over others because of their needs - and the fact that they can.  It's the chronological equivalent of tyranny, the exercise of being a time- bully:  I am more important, my needs are more important, so you must serve me.

To waste time, that most precious of commodities,  as a consequence of our failure to use it is a poor choice. 

To waste time because of the power of others is a chronological crime.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Decisions and Priorities

I am finding that one of the greatest - and most difficult - advancements in  maturity is making decisions based on priorities, not on what seems good to you alone.

This is a difficult thing, something I had not anticipated on having to learn.

Decision making is easier when you're younger, of course - it's only you.  The consequences of your decisions - at least the short term consequences - are generally not too damaging.  If you choose to decide something else - the life changing decisions of a major change or job change - it's not too bad; you just do it.

Then you marry and decisions become a little more difficult - there are two to think of rather than one.  Oftentimes longer range decisions - to buy a house and stay somewhere for example - begin to play a part.  Even other changes begin to have impact - if I do this, how does it affect the other person - come into play.  But to a large degree, there is still the flexibility of being able to choose largely based on you and your needs or wants.

And then children arrive.

It's subtle at first - a thought here about if we do this we can't, because something else is going on or if we move, X will not be in our lives - but it gets larger as they get older.  What one comes to discover is that at some point - I wish I understood where that point was - your decisions no longer really become your own.  It's not just you that is impacted - it's all those around you, those who depend on you, those whose lives you are responsible for. They now come to play as big - or even bigger - role in your decisions as your personal desires and wants do.

And then suddenly something becomes apparent, something which maybe you should have grasped years ago:  that all decisions are ultimately based on priorities. 

We confuse this, especially early on, as we think we are making decisions solely on what is most agreeable or best for us.  In point of fact we are exercising our priorities by choosing - it's just that at that time in our lives, our priorities tend to be centered around us.  To the blessed and foresighted, they realize this early on and make very good decisions.  The rest of us  - I count myself in this category - blunder along until we're confronted with it, hopefully not too late.

Because making decisions based on priorities instead of personal pleasure is tough.  It means subverting our own wants and desires to something longer term and usually better, even if that "better" is not for us directly.  It means we accept the fact that all decisions have consequences, consequences that are both sometimes irrevocable and impactful in the lives of others to a degree that may not be seen for years.  It means that what is a priority and important may not be the most desirable thing for me personally - but that does not make the decision any less right.

All choices have consequences, consquences we can never fully control.  We make the best choices we can - we just need to ensure that they are made on the priorities we have established instead of always on personal whims.  Thus, when we face the outcomes of those choices, we can point back to the service of the higher goal - and hopefully the good results - rather than to yet another decision that brings us pleasure but destroys all that matters.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Branches occur at the strangest places.

I was reminded of this over the course of the weekend, as I was reviewing my job history as part of a "Where have I been and Where am I going?" review.  I'm familiar with it of course as I've rehearsed it enough:  2.5 years in this part of the field, then I switched to another part of the field, following my manager through three jobs until 2004 when I joined The Firm.  After that back into The Industry, where I was three years at one place, 4 months and then laid off, and then where I am today.  Pretty straightforward, actually.

But what I realized as I looked at the history is that something happened in 2004 that I did not see before:  I chose not stay and follow.

Not because of who I was following.  The Great Boss  (TGB) is the one who I constantly look back to, even today, as the example of what a great boss is:  intelligent, honest, supportive, recognizing that the people who work for him are the resources of the company.  It's why I followed him across three companies.

But then, I stopped.

I had never seen this as something different before, a change in the rhythm of my life.  I, who was a follower, chose to strike out on my own (failed miserably of course, but that's a different tale). 

And never looked back.  My switches since then have all been due to my own choosing (or choosing for me in the case of the lay off), never due to the want or desire of following someone else.  I may not have always chosen wisely (another learned skill, apparently), but at least I have chosen.

The surprise I felt at discovering this was tempered with a sense of relief.  For years I have wondered if I will ever get the knack of making decisions for myself, of being able to chose based on something other than a feeling of security.

In this case, it appears that it has been happening longer than I thought.  And that is a good thing.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Last night I had a headache.

Oh, not a run of the mill headache.  One of those that seems to send a tube of liquid fire through the back of your head, making you think it will explode.  You can feel it pulse and swear your skull has expanded just a fraction to accommodate the pulse.

I'm not one who is given to a great deal of headaches, even more so those that are of an extreme nature.  I hardly know what to do - to take something goes against my general rule of taking anything, but the pain can be so intense.

I run through the list:  Did I not have coffee today (I did, maybe not enough?)?  Have I been feeling poorly?  Has anyone in my house been sick, something that might have passed on to me?  Have I eaten anything that I usually don't?  Did I get enough water today?

So all the questions were "yes", but just because the questions are answered does nothing to relieve the pain.  I try to distract myself in hopes that I can ignore it.  No luck there:  the waves just come and go, causing me to sink further and further into my covers in hopes that relaxing will make it go away.

And it doesn't.  It's become the worst kind of headache of all:  the kind that is still with you even while you sleep. 

It kicks up from time to time:  you suddenly awake and there it is, pulsing.  Mentally you want to cry out loud (although it's night and disturbing to others):  it's simply not fair that when I'm trying to rest to get rid of it that it's still here!

And then, somewhere about 4 AM, it's gone. 

But is it?  Even now, as I go about my morning, I can almost feel it in the back of my head, lurking ready to attempt to break out in a random act of pain and suffering.  Headaches - at least this kind - shouldn't be allowed to remain.  Like the flu, they should come and go.

Yet here it remains, silently torturing me, reminding me of how little, in reality, we control of our physical selves.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Thursday are tough.

Thursday are the day of the week when everything seems to be against me.  My energy level has slowly sunk over the week as little by little, the sleep patterns that are disrupted have finally caught up with me.  The schedule and things I started to do on Monday are by Thursday a pile on the floor in front of me, seemingly scarcely able to be lifted.

Whatever is going on at work too often seems to have come to a head by today as well.  More often than not Thursday is the day where everything seems to come together to provoke one long string of meetings and questions that need to be answered, scarcely allowing for any actual work to be done.

And the great thing about Thursday is it simply has nothing about it.  It doesn't have the benefit of middle of the week with half already gone - in fact, it painfully reminds me that there is still one more day until the weekend.  It is not Monday with the weekend just behind nor Tuesday with some leftover weekend joy and energy - and it is certainly not Friday with promise of relief soon to come.

I'd love to say - and I'd even more love to demonstrate - that either these are random occurrences and there is no ultimate plot by Thursdays against my sanity and my body but I struggle to come up with one.   The problem is that I never seem to be able to come up with any evidence that this is not the case.

The better question - the wiser question - is what to do about it.  What can I do to make my energy level last through the week?  What can I do to make Thursday a day more like any other in the week, a day that is simply one more that I work through?

I wish I knew.  My sleep pattern work during the week has been irregular at best, with little or no overall improvement to the process (can we discuss sleep as a process)?  Work remains outside of my control as well - I control what I control, but there is often too little that I do control.

What's the solution?  Maybe nothing at all.  Maybe just a grudging acknowledgement that in the annals of days of the week, Thursday is the day directly or indirectly designed to attempt to break us.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Running with My Mind

Today was my first long run.

My participation in a 5k this weekend, coupled with my desire to get fit (okay, let's be honest:  lose weight), has been pushing me along the course of trying to improve not only my commitment but my time.  In order to do this, one needs to train.  In order to train, one needs to run.

And so, I ran.

What I find is that my intellectual state is 50% or more of the battle.  If I've settled in my head that I am going to run a certain distance before I do it, my body simply acquiesces.  If my mind  is undecided my body seemingly loses all ability to do anything than get down to the end of the block.

So my mind was made up.  Fabulous.  Off we go.

The cooler weather helps a great deal.  It's far more pleasant to run and eventually get sweaty that to start out sweaty after running 5 steps.   It also helps to quiet the mind, which immediately starts complaining about being hot and sweaty and such.

My first serious breakpoint is where I make the turn to start back - the place I would turn back for my heretofore usual runs.  My body seems okay:  no aching bones, no side splitting aches.  My mind starts to wander a bit - Oh boy, here we go back!  No, I have to counsel it, we're going further today.

The second breakpoint is where I turn to do the extra mileage.  My mind is already thinking of the lesser runs I've done up this road, looking for a way to get off early.  Again I have to tell it no, we're going the full distance.

I'm not sure at what point the mind accepts the fact we're going the whole way, but it doesn't stop trying to fight back.  Making the third checkpoint - the turn towards home - I get a little distressed as I don't run this way as often and don't know the turns as well.  The next turn - the one to get me back on my normal route - always seems to be a bit beyond where I am going.  Aha, says the mind, see - told you we shouldn't have gone this far!

We find the turn, of course, and turn back on the final route home.  We make it, winded somewhat, legs aching, but feeling good.

I run the numbers.  Average time per mile is 8:57, not bad at all.

Look at what I had us do, the mind says.

The body just quietly shakes its head and looks for coffee.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


One of the minorly annoying things about relocating is that it takes you a while to become accustomed to seasonal change.

In Old Home, seasons were, well, like clockwork.  Rains started in November - if your garden wasn't in by 31 October, it probably wasn't going to happen.  Rains peter off in early March, maybe as far as early April.  By the end of May, Summer was well on its way.  And about the middle of September, the cast of the sunlight let all and sundry know that Fall had come.

Here in New Home, it's different.  Not just the types of seasons (we really only have two:  Hot and Humid and Cold) but when they arrive.  Summer starts maybe in May - but sometimes in April too.  Winter comes possibly in November, maybe even as late as December.  And there are a couple of weeks wedged in between the two that seem to quality as Spring and Fall.

But I am still unsure.  We've been in a cooler phase over the last two weeks and the sun has occasionally taken the cast of what I would associate with Fall.  But is it Fall?  Or is it just another cruel joke on me (and indirectly on my garden), condemning me to another two months of watering and indecisiveness about Fall or Winter vegetables?

The leaves don't necessarily turn, but that's not a huge impediment for me:  I come from a place where the evergreen grow right along with the deciduous, and it's a roll of the dice whether your neighborhood will be raking leaves or just watching them stand there, eventually drifting them back to the forest floor.  Other plants seem to come and go, but the grass that is around me on the lawn of my neighbors never truly goes dormant; it just seems to grow less slowly.  And the fact that we have more water here, that everything can be green throughout the whole year with cooperative weather, means that the monsoon cycle I am used to (brown in summer and fall, green in winter and spring) is partially if not wholly of no use to me.

But the weather - that's the one that throws me off.  The seasons are passing, but I don't always realize they've gone before they've moved on. I can sense them - especially those ephemeral ones of spring and fall - out of the corner of my eye, but am always left with the sense of "Did I miss it? Has it already gone?"

I'll survive, of course - the sun still rises, the rain still occasionally arrives, the heat definitely so.  But in the back of my heart I always find myself continuing to look for signs of a season that may have already gone - or is not yet here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fight Dissatisfaction!

There's been far too much ink spilt and money spent on getting people to change - to modify their conditions or their lives, to make themselves better than they are.  In reviewing this, I've realized there's a critical market not being served:  The people for who these individuals work, their spouses, their friends - anyone that somehow is a beneficiary of something that these people do.

This whole commitment to change thing is dangerous, you know.  People will start wanting to make their lives better and then start making their lives better.  You're aware of who loses out in that proposition, right?  You do.

That's why, as a public service, I've decided to help all those who want people to remain exactly where they are; those who wish to ensure that people keep their noses to the ground and their eyes on the dirt.  To you Overlords, great or petty, this is what you need to do to keep your people doing what you need them to do.

1)  Don't let them become dissatisfied:  This is one of the first signs that individuals are going to lurch towards the hard road of self transformation:  dissatisfaction.  That vague sense that gnaws at them that even though everything seems okay, something is wrong.  Terribly wrong, and they ought to fix it.

Fight these sensations. Keep them thinking about anything other than satisfaction.  Give them so much to do that they don't have time to think.  Occasionally indulge their little acts, so that the faint gleam of recognition will block out any sense that they are never recognized.  And for goodness sake, don't allow them to question "Is this all there is?"   If there's no question, there's no need to think about it.

2) Be oblivious:  The reality is that you as an Overlord (great or petty) have a great deal of work on your plate.  You're quite busy and important, you know.  Those that are around you, doing things to assist you in what you do, are really there to assist you in your climb to however you've defined success.  The last thing you need is a revolt in the middle of you campaign to greatness.

The easiest thing to do is be oblivious.  If you become too mired in details you're likely to start trying to understand what's going on, which both takes you away from your mission and may give others the idea that what they do is more important than it is.  Vague understanding is your friend here.  Frequently ask for updates.  Offer assistance without ever really giving any.  This has the benefit of keeping you "involved"  (oh, what a delightful word that is!) and gives the appearance that you're taking a more active role.  In the best of circumstances, people will believe you've actually started caring!

3) Occasionally crush them:  To all Overlords (great or petty), there's nothing quite as satisfying as exercising power over someone else.  At some level, it's why we all do what we do, right? 

Crushing people utterly reminds them of the fact that they're not nearly important as the rest of us.  You can't crush others too much, you understand:  that may work for the majority, but it will crystallize the internal workings of a minority, making them hard and focused to succeed.  Just an occasional dressing down ought to handle it.  And don't always insist on the full frontal assault either; sometimes just a lack of support at a critical moment will do more than 100 words spoken in anger.

4)  Insure they occasionally get recognized:  While occasionally crushing them is necessary, occasionally recognizing them is necessary as well.  If they're never recognized, they begin to wonder if this is true everywhere.  And if it's not true can see where this leads.

So occasionally recognize them.  Best if it's only in the confines of your local unit - business, family, chess club - lest they begin to feel too good about themselves and others begin to recognize their achievement (and worse, encourage it). 

Most importantly for this step, immediately go back to the way things were.  Don't dwell on the recognition.  If they begin to see ungrateful about something else, it's always helpful to remind them "Well, we did recognize you for....". 

5)  Don't let them question:  Don't let them question their situation.  Remind them that this is as good as it gets, that they are in fact successful and satisfied with their lives.  If they come to you with questions, play the willing ear.  Remind them that the world is a cold place and that they have it better than most.  Compliment them for their effort (of course), and give indications that with just a bit more effort, they can rise to the next level - maybe your level (they won't, of course, but no need to tell them that).

And never let them read!  Anything.  If they have to, let them keep to socially acceptable things like light fiction or popular literature - the sort of thing that is often discussed but rarely thought about.   Whenever asked, disincline them to read books about success or achievement.  If they must read such books, find ones that deal with them contributing to the whole rather than seeking personal change.  Books are dangerous things - it leads to thinking for themselves, asking questions and seeking change - all things we're trying to discourage, right?

Remember:  The dissatisfied are agents of change.  Agents of change are enemies to the success of those above them, who might be impacted. 

Keep them satisfied.   Keep them under control

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Illusion of Privacy

We as a people are of two minds about privacy.

On the one hand, privacy is something that we desperately hold on to.  We deeply reverence (and rightly so, in my opinion) the concept of individual privacy, that the individual has the right to lead their life untrammeled by the government wherever possible. On the other hand, we enjoy the free flow of telling information about our selves.  We happily discuss the activities of our lives on social forums.  We constantly carry on conversations which we scarcely realize are very easy to hear to those next to us.  We transfer to marketers all the information they want - and more - freely.

But underlying all of this is the concept that we have a right - granted to us by the universe - of a private life.

What if this is not so?

We only deal with the privacy in the context of our fellow humans.  What they do not see or hear is, in our minds, to us alone.  But there is a third party present at each second of our lives, at each moment of our activities:  God.

In reality, we are never truly alone.  We never have a truly private moment.  The walls we erect and the windows we cover do not hide us from the gaze of the Creator of the Universe.

What would our lives be like if we truly understood this concept?  Think of the times you have sinned in the dark or alone or completely isolated from others and have thought "No-one will know or ever find out".  That's simply not true.  Even alone in our mind, we still stand revealed to God.  There are no secret sins.

On the other hand, think of the times you have been steadfast or alone at a task or wounded in the deep parts of your soul.  Neither are these moments private.  The God who sees and comforts records all of these moments as well, ready to repay and reward someday.

If we grasped - truly grasped - that we are always with God and all our actions and thoughts are visible to Him, how would this change our lives?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Servanthood and Unreasonableness

One of the greatest problems I have with learning to serve is learning to put up with the unreasonableness of others.

People are unreasonable.  This should not come as an alert to anyone.  There are merely different  types of unreasonableness.  Some unreasonableness is just merely quirky:  people who like their desks clean or the coffee always fresh or papers aligned a certain way.  Maybe its a bit strange, maybe even a bit crazy, but quirky - and manageable.

But then there is the other kind of unreasonableness.  The kind of unreasonableness that reveals itself in demands or bad treatment, the sort that demands "Thou shalt do it My way" or the passing down of tasks to do without any consideration of how they will be done, the constant coming back to make something done their way without actually wanting to do the work themselves - or worse, the punishment simply because you fail to act precisely as is requested.

At best, these sorts of behaviors can be claimed as unreasonable.

It is somewhat amazing to me how quickly I can move from trying to be helpful and servant minded to a towering sense of rage when this sort of unreasonableness presents itself.  It's not quite that it immediately brings itself up:  it's that it builds, moving from a vague sense of annoyance to an active sense of resentment to - in its worst manifestations - a blinding sense of anger, of being treated as no more than a thing, a sort of human extension of the will of another.  All personality, all uniqueness, all value seems stripped away.  You are merely a pliers with hands, a computer entry device with a voice.

How do I make sense of this in the quest to serve?  Let us not kid ourselves:  be a servant, and human nature will quickly come to treat and view you as nothing more than a stepping stone to their ambitions, their goals, their outward appearances.  Whatever good you may have originally envisioned you were performing, whatever witness you may have been trying to give too often seems to get lost beneath the layers being a smaller cog in another machine.  It seemingly destroys the simple act of serving - after all, what point in being a servant, following Christ, when your service is either invisible or viewed as another tool in the tool box?

Is this not where faith may again play a role?  We are obedient because God calls us to obedience and assures us that all things work to our good and His glory.  All things, not just those of which we have "I am serving as a servant of Christ" blazoned on them like a neon sign.  Just because one person sees us in this light does not mean that all around us do not see us that same way.  Our influence is more often far deeper than what we can imagine:  more is seen out of the corner of the eye than is ever let on by most.

And the anger?  At it's most fundamental level, it's sin.  It's selfishness.  It's pride.  It's me demanding my own rights and my own way rather than submitting to another.  Does that make it easier to deal with?  Hardly.  But just because one can't deal with something doesn't change the facts.

We are called as Christians to be servants.  We are not told - at least in this life -that all acts of servant hood are recognized.  But we are told that, eventually, they will be.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Learning to Serve

Learning to be a servant is one of the most difficult things I have ever undertaken. 

To learn to be a servant is to realize the multiplicity of things that have to go on before and after something occurs - and realize that you are the one to do them.  To be a servant is to accept that even in the context of equals, someone asking for something means that you will do it - even if that results in the realization of others that you are not an equal.  To be a servant is to do without expectation (at least here) of reward or even acknowledgement.   To be a servant is to accept that sometimes, perhaps often, the great tasks of the enterprise or of the age are not yours to do and decide, to be replaced by the humble and unnoticed that may never been seen but are critically necessary.

This can be a very hard thing.

It's hard for me because I guess I have always believed that I was intended for something more:  to be a leader, a decision maker, someone who is out in front blazing a trail.  It's a thought our culture and society tends to enforce; whole books and websites are dedicated to the concept of being in charge.  I tried that once, working for The Firm.  On the one hand it was incredibly hypnotic, this sense of being at the apex of the pyramid, of striding across the landscape of business casting a shadow, of being the one to ask others to do.

Unfortunately, thing didn't work out as I had hoped.  Feelings of power and influence alone do not compensate for the quiet, hard work necessary to make things go.  And having a group of leaders who all believe (perhaps secretly) that the other person is the servant does not make for getting things done.

To be a servant is hard because you realize - in full-force frontal impact - how little control you have over so very many things.  To be a servant is ultimately to put your trust in the person or thing you are serving, that while you are performing your actions they are performing theirs in such a way that it ultimately benefits you as well as them.

Which is probably another reason why being a servant is so hard for so many:  they've been burned by serving those that are not worthy.

Think of world history:  those who gladly served National Socialism or Stalin's communism in hopes of  a better world only to see the long term ruin they caused.  Or more personally in our own lives, those who we have served - business supervisors, friends, even perhaps family - only to discover that they did not have our best interests at heart:  the layoffs that came after we excelled, the sudden cutoff of ties.  To be a servant is - willingly or unwillingly - to put your ultimate success and reward in the hands of someone else.

That's why, perhaps, Christians are uniquely positioned to be servants:  because ultimately we can have faith in the One on whose behalf we serve, that He will ultimately work everything to our good, that by serving Him and in His name He is truly looking out for our best interests, even if we ourselves cannot quite see that here.  Ultimately for the Christian there is ultimate success and reward because it is the hands of Another - One far greater than any of us and far more able to guarantee the results.

Ultimately serving is an act of faith.  Where is your faith placed?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Why Don't I Desire God More?

Why don't I desire God more?

I'm re-reading Safely Home by Randy Alcorn for the second or third time.  For those that haven't read it, it's a novel based on the experience of the persecuted home church movement in China.  While it is a work of fiction, it is based on the experiences of the actual church.

To read it is to read of things that I simply have no point of reference for:  persecution, arrest, physical harm, the Bible being illegal if not registered, of meeting in fear of being caught.  At the same time, it's also to read of things which I wish I had a point of reference to but also seem to have none:  powerful prayer, a real sense of God in one's life, the true commitment and understanding of the cost of being a Christian, a passion for evangelism (here, I fall very short).

Which brings me back to the original question:  why don't I desire God more?

Am I not fully convinced of the reality of sin? Is it that I am not (or never was) completely hopeless about how that sin was to be purged?  Is it that I am to concerned with the things of this life - not just the physical things, but my physical and mental well being?  Is it because my own plans are more dear to me than God?

Is it simple selfishness? 

And all that being true, how do I desire God more?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Can't Control?

What do you do when you face something you simply cannot change?

This is where I have found myself over the last week and into this week:  a situation where, no matter what I do, I simple cannot make everything that is supposed to happen.

I've done what you're supposed to do, of course:  maximized my time, delegated, working harder, made my request up the appropriate chain.  Still, I find myself in the exactly the same position: I cannot change anything.  The part that is bothersome, of course, is the impending sense of doom that is hovering over my head, knowing that there is nothing more I can do even as I fear that something will occur.

So what does one do when this happens?  Do what you can?  See above.  Scream about it?  Not  a terribly useful exercise.  Verbally complain to others?  There is no faster way to be mentally shut out by others.  Wait for something to go wrong?  Maybe viscerally satisfying of course, but hardly a problem solving method and certainly an attention getter in the wrong sense.

So (if one may ask) what's left?

Turn it over to God.

It seems counterintiuitive, and I'm not even really sure I completely understand what it's supposed to do.  But the reality is that this is my remaining option:  to turn this over to God completely.  Do what I can, of course - but then not exercise in any sort of "bad" behavior such that would discredit me or God.

It scares me, this turning over.  It's not something I can really control - in fact, the biggest control I have to exercise is over myself (which is all I ever had control of anyway).  I don't necessarily see how yielding my own rights in this matter (anger, pride, a sense of "told you so") will resolve any of the issues at hand.

But maybe I don't have to.  Maybe this insistence that I have - that I've always had - on completely understanding ever aspect of something before I engage is wrong.  One does not understand love before one is in it, and one does not appreciate what it truly means to be a parent until one does it.

We say "God is in control".  Do we really believe it?

Monday, September 10, 2012

What Matters

I have to keep dragging myself back to what matters time and time again.

It's odd how easily I am able to get myself off what is important and on to what is not.  I think it mostly stems from focusing on me:  my needs, but especially my wants.

Wants are dangerous things.  Unlike needs, which typically there is a justification for (food or sleep or shelter, for example), wants can very easily become a consuming fire, an overriding desire that eats up everything that may be good in our life for that which is either unattainable or at such an extreme outer limit that it will eat up our lives trying to get there.

And for what?  In reality, very little.  One of the benefits (if it can be called such) of growing older is the realization that things don't really have the power to gratify like we believe that they do.  Sure, it feels great for a little while:  the new car zings, the new book we can't wait to read, that thing that we have been unable to envision our life without - even relationships can fall into this category:  the person whose acquaintance propels us up the ladder to the next level, the relationship with the other that will make our lives sun and roses.

But in each case these are temporary things:  the car just takes us places, the book will be read and probably forgotten, the thing will eventually be put aside or scratched or broken, the relationship that moves us ahead discarded when it becomes inconvenient, the idealized romantic reltionship will eventually become just like another.  It's only at that point - if at all - we ask the logical question of "Was it worth it?"

We forget - or consciously block out - that life here is excrutiatingly temporary, that there is a reality that far outweighs this one in time and importance - and that we have the opportunity to do things now that will impact that greater reality.  But in order to do that, we have to learn to focus on the important things, on the things that matter most.

It's all a matter of perspective.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Automatic Transmission

I had an epiphany yesterday walking across the parking lot at work.

Somewhere deep within my soul, I have always believed that what I do was important - and that it would be recognized as such. Somewhere, somehow, there would be a knowledge that what I do mattes, that people would recognize that it matters, and that there would be some kind of sincere interest in what we do, how hard we work, and how we contribute.

I realized yesterday that I was wrong.

To use an analogy, I was under the impression that my career field would be recognized as an engine, an important item necessary to the functioning of car.  In reality, while we are very important to how my company functions, we are really the automatic transmission.

Automatic transmissions are just there.  They work silently in the background of the operation of the car.    People don't talk about their automatic transmissions.  They certainly don't think of the operation of them and they really don't give a second thought as to how they contribute to the operation of the car, other than the underlying sense that they work.    All they know is that when they push the gas and shift, the car moves forward.

That's what people really want from what I do as well:  silent, functional, quietly working away in the background.

In one sense such a realization is releasing.  To quote John MacArthur, disillusionment is the the child of illusion.  The reality is that the assumptions I was making, the things I was dreaming would be self evident others, is simply not the case - because others don't view my job the same way.  There's no point in becoming angry or upset about something that is not interpreted your way and never will be.

On the other hand, there's also a sense of disappointment.  Automatic transmissions never are recognized - except, of course, when they break down.  I guess I secretly have craved - am craving - attention, an acknowledgement of the importance of what I do and the challenges in doing it.  In fact, such attention and recognition will never come as a result of this.

The expectation? To be that automatic transmission silently operating in the background with nary a hint of issues.  To meet the increased demands of operational engine capacity by smoothly and instinctively adjusting.  To accept the fact that in world of engines, exteriors and interiors, I am - and will always be - simply a functional part which solely exists to support the rest of the car.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Bad Assumptions, Necessary Changes

Have you ever been hit over the head with the fact that something you have been doing for many years, a long cherished assumption about human nature, may be wrong?  Or equally as alarming, that how you do a basic activity is incorrect?

Such was my day yesterday, when I was confronted by the fact that how I have managed in the past may be completely and utterly wrong.  The facts themselves are irrelevant - the outcome is that for the second time in less than six months, basic assumptions about people and how I am as a manager are in question.

One incident (in anything) is a fluke, something that may have just happened.  Two incidents are an indication that there may actually be something there - and it starts with me.

Starts with me?  Yes.  As Splinter (that great dispenser of wisdom in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) says, "There are no excuses when you are the leader".  A failure of something which is in my area of purview is ultimately a failure of myself to do something.

What does all of this means?  I fear it means that the belief I have functioned under for years - indeed very style of dealing with people - is wrong.  That style may very well need to change.  And by changing the style, I will have to change myself.

I've had hints of this lately, of course - hints in other areas of my life, hints around how I react and act in the work environment.  Hints that things which I don't necessarily acknowledge as effective but at least as my "style" are not useful.

In a way it saddens me deeply.  What I think it ends up leaving is a me that I'm not going to like very much, a me that is far less personal and far more business-like in my day to day work life - if you will, a person who is very different than the person I feel myself to be.

The odd part is that for once I know what the changes have to be - not just changes in actions and attitudes, but changes in attention.  Changes in knowingly committing my knowledge to a tight circle of things which in a relatively short time will be meaningless.

In a very real way, a large part of me has to change - drastically change - in the next few weeks to become that which it apparently has to become to be in the work world I am in.

The question is, will I recognize the person on the other side?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


Blame Otis for his turn of mind.

I was driving home last night, using the time (as I sometimes do) to catch up with friends (it's relatively dead time, I'm in the car, the only other thing to do would be to listen to the radio and either sing poorly or get my blood pressure up).  Through a happy chain of circumstance, it was Otis that I got to spend time with last night.

We went through our usual litany of discussion - children, wives, jobs, how things are going - until we arrived - perhaps inevitably - at my most recent postings.

"Job and life couldn't be going better, huh?"  he asked.

Which of course started the flood - which it is always seems to - of this and that, of things I've written about here, my general dissatisfaction with the state of so much of my life and my real sense that I am now essentially trapped in a rut that leads to my grave.

"So you're home life is going well?"

Sure.  Everyone has blended in here so darn well - which is true, no sarcasm added.  Probably the least happy person in the room is me - which is probably true in a whole lot of areas.

"Well, look at the bright side.  At least your home life is good even if your work life is not what you want.  Imagine if the two were reversed."

The car is still driving.  My mind has pulled to the side of the road in a cloud of dust, thinking.

What if the two were reversed?  What if I had the best job ever, but every other part of my life - which for me is almost totally my home life - was terrible, falling apart, in a constant state of war?  What would things be like then?

It's tempting to ask one of the silly questions, like "How much worse could it be?" or "Who would noticed?" After all, work is somewhere which takes up a great deal of many people's lives, myself include.  By the time commuting is done, almost half of my day is spent in, at, or traveling to or from work. 

But the question is not that simple. What if the two were reversed, if my work was a place where I felt that everything was going very well indeed and my home life, my personal life was an area of constant battles and dissatisfaction, of arguments and troubled children and antagonism?

To be honest, it's tough for me to imagine such a thing - simply because I've never had to deal with it.  Ever.

I can theorize, I suppose.  I don't enjoy yelling and arguments as I am now - I can only imagine that such things would be 10 times worse.  And the experience I've had at homes where there is tension - that simmering sort of anger that seems to permeate everything until all within are in sort of a stew of crisis, ready to boil over as soon as the "guest" leaves the premises - would be enough to poison all that one tried to do offline.

And Na Clann?  I can hardly imagine.  They are well adjusted at this point, doing well in school and other activities, loving of God.  To strip that away, to inflict an atmosphere of strife and the uncertainty of not knowing when the next explosion is going to go off or even if a parent will continue to be there....

Does all of this (at which I recoil in horror) somehow make the rest better?  I'd be lying if I said beyond a very real sense of alarm at that sort of scenario, not necessarily.  What ifs don't change the reality of what is.  The rest of my life doesn't magically get better merely by comparison.  There is still work to to be done, maybe still things I can do to choose that course...

But it is good -and I am grateful to Otis - for making me go through the exercise of perspective and realize that the two things are not equally bad. In one case, it is something to be borne.  In the other, it is something that will scar lives forever.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Belief in Self?

What is the role of self belief and success?

Oh, not that usual relationship that is commonly acknowledged: that without self belief there is no success.  This has been demonstrated time and time again, both by the success of those who would otherwise not seem to be inclined to be from their circumstances as well as by those who, given all the hands up they can be given, never really seem to take of.

The thing I am wondering about is something more elusive than that, the role of one's own self belief in succeeding - and how one gets it.

Part of the lose of hope in lives -in mine, anyway - is the sense that I simply cannot succeed at something which I try.  Of course one has to have an accurate measure of success to start with - we are neither master authors nor master cheese makers from the start.  At the same time, I am often dogged by the sense that I am not - and cannot - succeed.

Do I base too much on the reactions of others?  Possibly.  Success - at least in our society - is measured in terms of "simple" things like recognition and money.  They are not truly indicative of success, I guess - but then again, getting paid for something you like and are good at far and away beats getting paid for something you don't really care for and manage to get through.

And too often this is the sticking point for me:  trying to find a sense of self-belief in the midst of a world where I am "supposed" to do something and like it, rather than like it and do something.

To suggest this to others - especially those close to you - is sometimes incredibly difficult.  If you has never had the experience of achieving a long cherished goal only to have it treated as uneventful  - or worse, unnoticeable - you cannot imagine the deflation of the soul.

Which is where self belief is supposed to come in, I guess - that backstop of life, that hedge against the world that when all others strike down our thoughts and goals, it will maintain us from going over the cliff.

But what if it turns out that every time you go to the backstop it is mysteriously not there, that the wave it is supposed to protect against simply washes over you and down the cliff?  Where, you wonder as you go over for the 1000th time, is my self belief? 

In your worst times, you begin to even question if you had it in the first place.

Without self belief, activities lose their luster.  Careers becomes endurance marathons. The thought of doing anything else - anything that requires internal generation of energy and confidence - becomes an exercise in trying to push a boulder up a very steep hill indeed.

If self belief will not come from within, where will it come from?

Monday, September 03, 2012


Feeling remarkably trapped in my life this weekend.

It's as if I've suddenly looked up and it feels as if the rest of my life is set for me - and I'm not very excited by future I see.  Yes, I know it's possible to change your choices and thereby change your life, but life seems to be a series of narrowing choices, not expanding ones.

Without very much effort at all, the next 15 years of my life are easily laid out for me:  what I would do, where I will do it, what the expectations are of me. 

So why doesn't this excite me more?

Because in following this course - not precisely chosen for me, but not precisely of my own choosing either - I feel I am simply being reduced to less and less until, at the end, I will simply be nothing more than a compilation of duties and responsibilities.  Me - or any sense of me - will have been long ago washed away, leaving only the persona of duties left in my place.

It's foolish to pretend that at that point something suddenly changes and life reverts back to that which I would like it to be.  15 years from now - or even 5 years from now - I will be that much farther away from that which my heart keenly desires, with that much less time to make it up.

It's wrong to admit, I suppose, that even I am occasionally overcome by the simple desire to just run away - to just shuck everything I have to do and go do what I what to do.  It's foolish, of course, and does not solve anything, but thing that make it attractive - the thing that pushes so many off of that cliff - is the simple fact that one gets to choose something for oneself, that after a long time (years?) of making choices based on responsibilities and duties and things I have to do, one can choose as one wants.

(Again to emphasize it's mostly a pipe dream.  Responsibilities never magically disappear on their own, and the consequences often never really go away.  It's not like we're dealing with at true tabula rosa here.)

But is there a third alternative?  I wish I could see it.  Something between the grinding duty of "I must" and the ephemeral freedom of "I choose" must lie a path where one fulfills responsibilities while have hope and input into the path of one's future. 

Something where "trapped" is not the ultimate definition.