A Lesson From A Blueberry Bush

This summer the blueberry bushes at my house have been going crazy! We have 3 young bushes and for the past several years they’ve been somewhat light in the production department.  This year, however, they seemed to have turned a corner and re producing more berries that we can keep up with.  It’s quite a change from years past when they produced only a couple of handfuls per season.

Fortunately, my wife and I were aware that it takes a time for the bushes to mature before they start yielding a large quantity. Therefore, we weren’t mad at the bushes in the early years.  We didn’t put the plants in the ground one day and expect a bumper crop the next.  We realize that it takes time

These bushes remind me that learning something new also involves a process that takes time.  We all know this.  Yet we often become frustrated with ourselves when we expect to be further along in the process after only a short time.  The best thing we can do when learning a new skill is to realize that it will take time… and to be ok with that.  We simply have to put in the effort over time and the results are sure to follow.

Here’s a fun thing you can do to observe the impacts of time on something you’re actively trying to learn.  Write yourself an email that will be sent to you one year from today.  In that email describe what you’re attempting to lean and the level of skill you currently possess.  When you read the email next year, you’ll likely be amazed at how far you’ve come.

Building Valuable Experience

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

We often think that learning takes place in a controlled environment like a classroom or an online course.  Here, lessons are orderly, information is dispersed, and an opportunity to apply the knowledge we’ve gained is provided.  While this is certainly one way to gain knowledge, the best learning and experience is usually gained when the wheels are coming off.

Don’t get me wrong, the base knowledge we gain on a topic from classroom instruction, or in other ideal conditions, is crucial in helping us develop an understanding of our topic of choice.  However, when we find ourselves having to apply this knowledge to solve a problem in an uncontrolled setting where conditions are far from ideal, that’s where experience is forged.  And that experience is valuable!

Consider the following scenarios:

  • Parenting a child through a challenging time or situation
  • Restoring a computer network outage that is keeping scores of people from working
  • Leading a family or team through an unexpected tragedy
  • Running a business during a global pandemic

Problems like these can easily cause us to feel like we’re in over our heads, which may be accurate. What we can do, is take the skills and knowledge we’ve gained to this point and focus it toward solving the problem we’re facing.  No, it’s never fun to be in “rough seas”, but if we can see past the storm and be confident in our abilities to apply what we have, we’ll likely come through with a greater depth of experience, and even wisdom, than we possessed before.

Be confident and apply what you’ve learned.

Enjoying It While You Can

It’s summer in the Pacific Northwest and that means it’s sunny when I wake up!  I usually get out of bed around 5:30 AM, and most of the year it’s dark at that time, and depending on the time of year, it can also be rainy as well.  Knowing this makes sunny summer morning that much more enjoyable. 

Since I’ve started working from home, I’ve been making sure to get out and walk around the neighborhood before work begins.  These sun-filled walks get me feeling good and charged up for the day ahead.   I’m doing my best to take advantage of these beautiful mornings, knowing that they will soon be replaced by darker and even rainier ones.

My walks are a reminder for me to enjoy what I have while I have it.  Before long, the warm sunny mornings will be memories, leaving me eagerly looking forward to the following summer, when they make their splendid return.  For now, I’m doing my best to enjoy them while they’re here.

Do you have something in your life that will be, or could potentially be, gone soon?  If so, be sure to enjoy it now, while you still have the opportunity.  Because once it’s gone, you’ll be glad you did.

Embrace Temporary Ignorance

“I don’t like learning new things” ~DMV employee

O Monday I was at the DMV getting my driver’s license renewed.  Before I left, my wife mentioned she heard on the news that the DMV would be working with a new computer system that launched the same day as my appointment.  This should be fun!

After I was called to the counter and told the DMV employee what I was there for, I asked how the new computer system was working.  She gave me a look that made me think things hadn’t been going well, so I let out an, “Oh no!”  Actually, she told me, things were going pretty well, largely due to all the training they had prior to launch.  She said she didn’t like not knowing all the answers to the computer-related questions her colleagues were asking.

That’s when she dropped the quote at the top of this post on me.  She mentioned she’d been doing her job for the last 22 years just fine and knew all the answers to all the questions and would rather not have to learn a new system and feel like she was starting all over again.

I get it.  When we learning something new, we have little experience and lots of ignorance.  It puts us out of our comfort zone, and that doesn’t always feel good.  For me, however, remaining intellectually stagnant, by not continuously learning new skills, is much more uncomfortable.

When learning something new causes me to be pushed outside of my comfort zone, I remind myself that I’ll only be uncomfortably ignorant for a relatively short time.  The discomfort of feeling ignorant will soon be replaced with confident competence.  It’s a cycle that should be familiar to life-long learners.

Don’t allow the discomfort of temporary ignorance to keep you intellectually stagnant.  Embrace the discomfort, knowing that your continued drive to learn the new skill will soon result in competence and the confidence that comes with it.

Making It Happen

For years, I had heard about the beautiful scenery at Waldo Lake in the Oregon Cascades.  I had never been there until Thursday, when wife and I finally decided to visit the lake and do some hiking.  It was a clear sunny day with temperatures in the mid-60s.  Perfect for hiking!  And with regard to the scenery, Waldo Lake did not disappoint.

Waldo Lake

There have been a lot of places I’ve heard about in the past that pique my interest and motivate me to want to visit them.  Waldo Lake reminded me that the only barrier that stands in the way of me actually visiting these places is my own lack of initiative to make it happen.

After visiting the lake, I wondered what took me so long to finally get up there, when the process to do so was so easy.  All I did to make that trip happen was to state to my wife, “Hey, let’s go hiking at Waldo Lake on Thursday.”  To which she replied, “That sounds good to me!”  Taking the initiative to pick a date was all I needed to do to make that happen.  How easy was that?! 

So often it seems like the barrier between us and an outcome we desire is simply deciding that were going to move toward that outcome.  And part of “deciding” includes setting a date and taking the actions to bring the desired outcome about.

Are there any places you’d like to go, things you’d like to do, or outcomes you’d like to see happen?  If so, check and see if possibly, the reason they haven’t happened yet it simply because you haven’t taken the initiative to make them happen.  If you find out that lack of initiative is the barrier, I’ve got good news!  You can squash that barrier by taking action to make it happen.

As my wife stated, “That sounds good to me!”

Thriving Amidst Constraints

Last Monday morning I was enjoying a beautiful sunny walk through the neighborhood before work when I noticed a plant growing out of the asphalt.  “Must be a weed” I thought to myself as I approached the spot in the road where the plant was growing.  I was shocked when I got close and observed that it was not a weed, but instead, a small, beautiful flowering plant!  Its purple and yellow petals a striking contrast against the charcoal colored asphalt.  It was a wonderfully unexpected surprise!

Tenacity

I love the tenacity of that little plant!  Not only the plant, but the seed from whence it came.  That seed was dropped in the least likely place for it to grow.  None the less, it literally took root and found a way to thrive within the environmental constraints it had been dropped into.  No greenhouse.  No potting soil.  Nothing more than an opportunity to succeed.

That plant was a great reminder to do my best with the opportunities I’m given.  Even when conditions might not seem optimal.

Breaking Through

I started playing the electric bass 3 years ago and I’ve really enjoyed the process of learning how chords are made and fit together with other chords to make bass lines and fills.  While I’ve enjoyed the learning process, I’ll also admit that I’d been frustrated by the slow pace at which improvement has come. However, I have to remind myself that consistent effort leads to breakthroughs, whereas quitting does not.

For the past 3 months I’ve been focusing on the pentatonic scale and how to use it with other scales.  What’s been frustrating is that I’ve been learning and practicing these concepts, but have been struggling to put them together in the context of a song.  I’ve practiced the chord shapes, but feel like I have a mental block when it comes to putting it all together.

However, tonight (Thursday) when I sat down to practice, I noticed that the concepts I’ve been learning had come together and I was actually using them in the context of a song!  It’s like my brain finally said, “Oh, I get it now.”  What a breakthrough!  And it’s all the result of consistent practice, even when the results were slow.

Is there something you’re struggling to learn or accomplish?  Are you not seeing the results you’d like as quickly as you ‘d like?  If so, I encourage you to stay diligent in your practice, even when it seems you’re not making headway.

There are 2 things I know for certain:

  1. If you keep at it, you’ll eventually have a breakthrough
  2. If you quit, you wont

Do You Need To Make A Point

Earlier this week I was having a conversation with someone about recent events. At several times during the conversation, I felt like there was a point I could make about what they were saying.  Fortunately, I decided not to, and just listened to where they were coming from.  In that circumstance, I think I made the right choice.

Speaking from my own observations and experienced, it seems like people are all over the spectrum with regard to what they think, how they’re dealing with the current myriad issues and how they’re being impacted by those issues.  There are so many opinions, world-views and stressors on people, and so many different ways people are handling them, that it’s unlikely you’ll find someone on the exact same place on the spectrum as you are.  I certainly haven’t.  As such, in our effort to make a point, we could easy turn a conversation into a divisive exchange without even meaning to.

I think it would serve us well to know when the time to make a point is, and when it would be more appropriate to compassionately listen to someone in order to better understand where they are coming from.

May we continually be able to discern which response is appropriate for the conversations we find ourselves in.

Informed Vs.Over Saturated

There’s so much going on in world and the US lately!  Compared to what was happening just 6 months ago, it feels like we’ve been transported and dropped off in a whole new world.  As a result, there is so much news coming at us every hour (or very often in real time) in an attempt to keep us informed.  While it’s good to be informed, it’s not good to be over saturated.

When I watch too much negative news, it starts to impact my attitude and my thinking.  It leaves me feeling weighted down.  I’m grateful that I know this about myself, so that I can monitor my news intake and stop watching once I’ve been informed, instead of continuing to watching to the point of over saturation.  It’s good to know my limit!

Do you know your oversaturation limit for negative news?  If not, pay attention to your attitude and outlook based on the amount of news your consuming.  If you too find yourself being weighted down by current events, perhaps throttle back on the consumption.  Who knows, you might be able to improve your outlook, and free up some time, by watching less news.

Thoughts On Worry And Anxiety

I laugh when I look back at things that seemed like such a big deal in the moment, but are soon forgotten.  Like the time I tried to put in a sprinkler system in my yard.  It seemed so simple and made perfect sense on paper, until I actually set about the task.  After renting a ditch witch (that I didn’t even know how to operate) I proceeded to tear up my lawn in a failed attempt to dig trenches for the sprinkler lines.  I addition, I also broke off my main water line to the house at the meter while attempting to connect the sprinklers to water.  What a mess!

Needless to say, I was pretty anxious and discouraged in that moment, and for several moments beyond.  I had a hard time seeing past the big expensive-looking mistake I had just made and was worrying about I would get it corrected.

Fortunately, I was able to get things rectified.  The plumber came out and fixed the main water line, and a local landscaper came out and took over where I left off.  Never before have I been happier to pay for someone’s services!  Everything worked out, and before long, my discouragement and frustration were a distant memory.

I think back to my sprinkler event whenever I find myself experiencing a similar “adventure”.  This memory is important in that it helps me not to become anxious or fall into needless worry.  When I think back now about how much worrying I did over the sprinkler situation, it seems like such a waste of time.  I don’t want to waste time like that because it doesn’t achieve anything.  Mathew 6:27 sums it up well for me, “Can anyone of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?”  I know I can’t.

Dale Carnegie also has several good thoughts on worrying.  One of my favorites is, “Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be worth and refuse to give it more.”  I like the premise in this statement that we decide how much anxiety or worry we give something, and we can choose to give it less.

I hope you’ve got some “adventures” of your own, where in the moment they seemed like such a big deal, but after you worked through them, you now wonder why you worried so much.  If you do, use those memories to help regulate your anxiety when the next adventure occurs.  We’ve got better things to do with our lives besides parking in worry’s driveway.