Frogs Don’t Sweat – But I Do. How I Re-wrote the Serenity Prayer

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I gave life hardly a thought when I was eight.   Get up when Mom wakes me, be on time for breakfast, and be good at school. Play. Use good manners at supper time. Play. Read. Don’t argue about going to bed. Do it again tomorrow, and play hard Saturday.  All day.

 

Long-awaited adulthood rounded the bend, and like a splashing puddle in the sun, eight evaporated.
Not all at once, but it did. Today I miss it. Carefree deferred to responsibility a week, a year, a decade at a time.  I’m still optimistic –I probably always will be– but I’m tired.

 

In sixth grade Mr. Herbst told us a frog in a pot of water on the stove won’t jump out if you heat the water slowly enough.  We all wanted to know how you get one to sit still that long, but he said that wasn’t the point.  An amphibian will sit there and let you boil him to death.  Well, it’s taken quite a while but the water in my pot is approaching 212°.  This isn’t the first time; the dilemma is cyclical. Life amps up half a degree at a time until I’m about to boil from within. I nearly die. Then comes a reprieve, a new phase with some relief, and we start anew.

 

In college the would-be stew included arranging, practicing, and the rigors of recital prep (I was a music major), a part time job, an internship, wedding plans – oh, and class.   At 30 it was 9 – 5 in the office, 5 – 9 as husband and dad, plus graduate school. At 45, parenting teens. Need I say more?  Today I’m building my own business, husband, dad to grown kids who’ve decided I do know a few things after all and want to know. Grandpa, the toy. 23 books waiting to be read. My bike on the garage wall whispering now and then, “Remember me?”

 

You know, Mr. Herbst, it makes me sweat. Frogs don’t sweat, but I do. And I’m glad for that. He’ll just sit there and take it. Let it happen. Not me.

 

I feel tension’s heat. I interview myself in quiet moments and at long stoplights:
Is this of my own doing, or from without? Is this an unexpected ramification of some commitment I made? Is this temporary?  How short-lived might this be?  How prolonged? Do I ride it out? Would self -intervention be worth the effort or only heap on more pressure? What would happen if I said “No, thank you” or “No more”? I need to distill this down; put boiling to good use. I silently grouse. Talk myself out of another bad mood. Change a couple of things in my routine, hoping for relief. I consider all kinds of no-guarantee options in my silent fight to preserve my sanity.

 

Mine is a genuine quest for excellence, the disciplined pursuit of less1, but here I am again. How do these things keep piling on?  I just wanna go play. I want to call over my shoulder as I hit the screen door on the way out, “I’m going for a bike ride, be back for supper.” Only now I know better than to let that screen door slam.  I’ve had to fix a few.

 

Out of nowhere I remember coming upon my old neighbor, Curly Burgess one afternoon, vigorously slashing with a garden hoe at the woodbine vine smothering his back fence, pieces of foliage flying through the summer air.

 

“That’s ambitious!” I commented.

He smiled and leaned on his hoe to catch his breath. “Now and then you just gotta’ remind it who’s boss. Otherwise it takes over.”

I wonder if taking a garden hoe to my everyday is overdue. I no sooner start down that path but opposing thoughts interrupt.  “Oh, no, be selective. You know, like a vintner wanting the largest and sweetest fruit from life’s vine. Remove what you don’t want, but carefully.  Be precise.”

“But I’m about to lose it! This is going to ruin me if I don’t act, like – yesterday,” I counter.

“Then act. But be wise about it. Prune if you must, and you probably should, but prioritize first.”

“Easy for you to say. This is nearly all good stuff. Duty calls. People expect …”

“Are you going to let others decide for you?” self interrupts, “I thought you liked to be in charge.”

The internal quarrel silently continues, the heat building half a degree at a time.

Then, as it did in college, at 30, 45, and times between, self makes self stop. Breathe. It’s in that forced pause that I realize: It’s when I try to live too much of life at a time that I get myself in hot water.  I’ve done it again.

“Each day has enough trouble of its own,” a wise man said2.  He had a sundial.  Me?  I have a watch with a second-hand, a clock on my phone, my computer, my nightstand, my kitchen wall, the cable box, the dash of my car, my desk.  I need to live today today – but only today.  Live this hour. This one. Right here.  Not the whole day at once.

The flame shrinks and dies out for a while and life cools. I make it cool; I can’t handle 212°.  I only like sweating after bike rides, workouts, and mowing the lawn. I can’t hear the phone when I’m mowing and I like that I can’t. Mowing is great think time for me. “That’s it! I’ve got it!” Leaving my mower mid-round, I slip into the garage, find a cheap pen on my workbench and write on the back of a scrap of worn-out sandpaper:

God, grant me
The SANITY
that comes from living unhurried
The RESOLVE
to superintend life’s varied demands
And PASSION
that thrives.
Always.

“There.  My version. My relief and my release.  I may even frame this version and hang it next to the famous one,” I smile to myself   Folding it, I shove it deep in my back jeans pocket and head back outside. “Twenty more minutes and this lawn will be flawless. For a day. Maybe two”.

Sanity Prayer Graphic- Landscape JPG

 

1 Greg McKeown –  Essentialism,  the Disciplined Pursuit of Less
2 Jesus –  Matthew 6.34

©2016 by Philip Ransom   philipransom.com

Versions you may download for personal use   No opt-in required this time:
Lt: easy on the ink
PLRansom – portrait orientation
Landscape – best for computer wallpaper ( pictured above )

Sanity Prayer Graphic – Lt


Sanity Prayer Graphic – PLRansom


Sanity Prayer Graphic- Landscape

Thinking Like an Olympian – Though I’m Not

I’ll never participate in the Olympics, though I always watch with admiration, enthusiasm, and awe.  “How do they DO that?!”  So fast! So Coordinated. So Impressive! Diving marvels, Track and Field athletes, ice skaters, downhill skiers, luge, bobsled, and team sports amaze and excite me every Olympics.

Olympians inspire me. Not because I’m going to be one someday (I believe the applicable term here would be “fat-chance!”), but I learn from these remarkable athletes all the time and I’ve discovered that thinking like one, applying basic discipline and optimism to my setting, I do better and enjoy my accomplishments:

  • What’s harmful?
    Don’t even consider it.
  • What’s needless?
    Think about it once – and forget it.
  • What’s needful?
    Think about it all the time.
    Give others permission to remind -and push- me.
  • What’s imperative?
    Think, do and become those things!
    Be consumed with them. Driven by them.

Olympians don’t brag about what they give up, how they change their routines and schedules to accommodate their training, or how intense it is. They just do it.  “No, Thanks. I’m in training,” may be about all most of us hear.

“I want gold!” motivates and compels them.  But you seldom hear a speed skater telling everyone what time he or she has to be on the ice every morning; those are the things commentators like to discover during the Olympics, and we marvel. “So THAT’s how you do that!”

I have a handful of ambitious, gold-like goals already set for 2016.  When I watch coverage of the Summer Games in Brazil later this year, I’ll observe again the parallels between their extraordinary achievements and how I’m reaching for gold in my personal and business life. My quiet admiration of those athletes will soar as it always does and their success will urge me on.

Take five minutes.  Sit quietly or go for a short walk and ask yourself “How could thinking like an Olympian help me, my business, my personal life, my  waistline?”

When you’re finished make some notes – for just you – anhttps://i0.wp.com/www.genengnews.com/media/images/AnalysisAndInsight/August10_2012_32974942_GoldMedals_OlympicsDoping1449542029.jpgd begin.
Don’t talk about the things you’re going to do, just do them, and smile as you see your goals come closer and closer, the result of your optimistic discipline.  You can have silver – I dibs gold.

 

What’s it Going to Be? Pick One or Two, But Not Three

Is it possible to achieve excellence, be the best in your venue, with cheapest-is-best as a key operative? I’ve come to the conclusion the answer is “NO”!
Several years ago I interviewed to be a system installer for an audio video company with a stellar reputation. My previous position called for services and products similar to theirs but I didn’t recall seeing any of their ads. So in the interview I asked which periodicals they advertised in.  “We don’t advertise,” was the quick and confident reply, “We don’t have to.”

He went on to say that once their reputation for best quality was established, the need to advertise ended.

  • They installed only state-of-the-art components and systems.
  • Their training was first-rate.
  • Their service department held a zero tolerance stance regarding equipment and software. It works, or we make sure it does!
  • There was no need to pay for advertising, ecstatic customers did that for them.

Naturally, I was disappointed when they hired someone else. How delightful that would have been: Excellence. Just excellence, all day, every day.

Conversely I have seen -even worked with- those for whom cheapest is a core value. “Don’t spend it unless you have to.” “Low bid wins,” etc..
It should come as no surprise to you that organizations and companies that think that way grow slowly – if at all.

One organization I served has gone from “state-of-the-art, world-class house museum” thinking fifteen years ago, to a minimalist mindset today, giving the impression of ongoing grandiosity while spending precious-little on time and resources to get the job done. Excellence is a word in their past. Leaders are leaving, and I’m not optimistic about the future for that organization.

I remember in once organization, I invited six key leaders to join me for a little exercise after hours but before dark.  Meeting them in the parking lot, I handed each of them a pair of dollar-store children’s sunglasses. “Those are visitor-glasses,” I told them, “I want you to imagine you’ve never been here before.”  I,  the new-staffer, gave a tour of their own facility to people who’d been in the organization for decades, looking through the lenses of a first-time visitor. Forty-five minutes later we found a table and sat down to review what we’d discovered.  Walls that hadn’t been painted in 20 years.  One large white wall, we even discovered, had never been painted. It was texture and primer. That’s it.  We identified carpet with obvious traffic wear patterns. Signage to help visitors was glaringly absent. Audio-visual equipment for classrooms and the auditorium were pieced together from whenever / wherever / whatever’s cheapest.  We had lecterns in some classrooms that had actuality been bedside stands at an area hospital decades before, given to us when the hospital closed.  “We’ve got work to do!” they agreed, “no wonder visitors aren’t coming back.”

It took us 18 months of concerted, steady effort, but we brought about a culture shift in the organization.  “Cheapest is no longer a core value here.”
I shared with that team –and I say this whenever I get the chance– that there are three driving objectives for most companies and organizations, all begin with the letter “E”.

You can sell two, but not all three.
Life is best when you can focus on just one.
Those factors are:

  • Excellence, 
  • Efficiency,
  • Economy. 

One is best.  Two is possible.

fast-good-cheap

  • You can sell Economy (best price) and Efficiency (fast delivery) but you’ll not be selling the best products in that scenario.
  • You can sell Excellence and Efficiency, but not cheaply.If you’re looking for Excellent products or services inexpensively, you’ll probably have to stand in  line a while.

Where are you on the spectrum?  Where is your company or organization?  Is that where you want to be?  Is that how you’re going to move into “your preferred future”, you dream?

Be honest with yourself, and about your true answers to those questions, the way that “we’ve got work to do” team was.  Then make the necessary changes.

A note from one who’s been there –  once you know, abrupt initial  improvements are a lot of fun!  Then once you see the difference, incremental changes can be worked into your schedule and budget.
What do you want to sell the most?  Move in that direction.  Now.

 

Which Word?

The third time I saw this in the parking garage this week, I took a picture.  It just makes me smile. If you were to put a one word caption under it, which would you use? 20150723_201539 a. contradictory

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b. incongruous

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c. paradox

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d. contrasting.

This is just for fun…  enjoy the picture..  comments below.  There is no contest, no winner, just the enjoyment of words and images.

Use Technology to Focus Your Creative Energy

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“Do you have to be somewhere?” he asked from behind his coffee, “Or do you just not want to talk to me?”
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I came to with a start. “No! I’m good.”
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“You’re clocking every few minutes. Do you have somewhere to go?”  His tone was gentle but confronting. I’d given my new friend the wrong impression without even realizing.  We’d agreed to meet over coffee and already he was getting mixed signals. I was to blame.
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I assured Robin that I had plenty of time and inwardly resolved not to clock any more. Still I caught myself.  So I said “I don’t have to leave until 20-after.  It’s an important appointment, but right now I want to get to know you.” and I asked another question, inviting him to share.

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That conversation embarrassed me.  I do well with people and have as long as I can remember. I also pride myself in being on time for things. I cringe whenever I look up and realize that while the article I’m writing is looking good, I’m already 10 minutes late for an appointment. So I bust-it to be on time. That day two values competed with each other.  I hated what happened, and I resolved to not let THAT happen again.  I would tell people right away if I had something coming next so they knew ahead of time, and sometimes they’d even point out the time to me.  It worked much better.
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Then the Palm Pilot PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) entered the market. Remember those?  I discovered that I could set little chirp alarms, much less intrusive than the beep-beep-beep of digital watch alarms, that could help me stay on task and on time.
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I experimented. Tweaked.  Found the formula that works best for me, and locked it in.  Today I use an Android smart phone that sends me a little vibrating signal from my pocket.  “Time to stop what you’re doing now, and ____.”  I may need to leave to be to an appointment, switch tasks, call someone, it varies.
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At the beginning of each week I take ten minutes to look ahead and find those places where I need to change to a different scheduled task, leave for an appointment, do a chore, make a call, etc.   If It’s an appointment I’m headed for, I set the alarm for travel-time pus 10 before the appointment so I have plenty of time.  One never knows when a slow-moving train or an unexpected detour is going to add five minutes to the trip, so I factor it in ahead of time.
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And then –  this is the part I love –  I throw myself into the task at hand, or the conversation I’m enjoying, without a care.  My rectangular partner notifies me precisely when I asked it to, that it’s time to transition.  I love the results.
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Two things to remember if you decide to use this technique.
1)  Pick the least intrusive signal available to get your attention.  I like a vibration, two sets of two short dashes.
2)  Stick to the same notifier for similar tasks so your mind tunes in to that signal and you hear or feel it even when no one else does.
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Use this tip with confidence.  It’ll help you focus your energy on what you’re doing right now without those constant “don’t be late” impulses, and no one will ask you, like they did me, “Do you have to be somewhere? Or do you just not want to talk to me?”
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Enjoy –
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