It’s Not Always Someone Else

When you see a natural disaster on TV or hear about people dealing with life challenges, it’s easy to think that those kinds of things only happen to other people.  Until they happen to you.

In the past 2 years I’ve had some life events happen that, in the past, I would have seen as things that happen to other people, but not to me.  One was some health news and another is the current wildfires burning in Oregon that is directly impacting friends and family.

Its’ quite different when these things are happening to you versus happening to others.  When it happens to others we think, “That’s too bad” and then go about our business.  It’s different when it’s happening to us, because we can’t just turn it off or change the channel like we do when we’re watching a disaster on the TV.  When it’s happening to us, we’re living it, and there is no off switch.

I’m reminded of the importance of empathy toward others in the struggles they face.  While that doesn’t mean I have to take on, and be responsible for, everyone’s burdens, it does remind me that others don’t have an off switch in the troubles they face either.  With that in mind, I should offer what I can to help others in their struggles, because I know I appreciate it when others do that for me.

Enjoying What We Have When We Have It

I’ve really been enjoying summer this year, which seems odd due to this being the Summer of COVID.  Like many people, I’ve been working from home since late March, so my morning commute has morphed from a 20-minute drive into a walk through the neighborhood with my wife.  It’s been great!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I love early sunny mornings in the summer.  The bright, calm, cool skies, coupled with the quiet, slow pace that exists before the world starts to wake up and get busy, is one of my favorite parts of summer.

As September has arrived, I am keenly aware that these beautiful mornings will soon give way to the gray, cold, rainy events that describe many late fall and winter mornings in the Pacific Northwest.  This certainty fills me with a sense of urgency to take advantage of these sunny mornings as much as I can before they’re gone for the season.  I don’t want to waste a single remaining morning, because as soon as rainy mornings are the norm, I’ll wish I had taken advantage of any sunny mornings I might have squandered in the summer.

Therefore, my plan is to enjoy them as much as I can while I still have them.  I want to look back on them this fall and winter with the satisfied feeling that comes from knowing I appreciated what I had when I had it. 

Is there anything currently in your life that will soon be gone, either for a season or for good?  If so, enjoy it while you have it.

Causing Something To Happen

For about 2.5 decades I’ve had this recurring interest in Bonsai trees.  I’m intrigued by their shape and diminutive size and how you can shape them and train them to get the look you’re after.  I’ve always thought, “that would be fun to get into”, but I never have… until now.

A few weeks ago, I began thinking about Bonsais again, only this time I caused something to happen.  I watched a video of Bonsai expert Peter Chang pruning an Alberta Spruce from a nursery.  That caused me to go to the library and checkout (and read!) some books on Bonsai.  That caused me to run down to a local nursery and pick up a small juniper that I will shape and train into a beautiful Bonsai tree.  I’m finally getting into Bonsai!

This week I was reminded that, if we are interested in a desired result, how important it is to cause something to happen toward that end.  The video lead to the books, which lead to purchasing a small plant I will shape and pot.  It isn’t until we take action that will cause something to happen that things actually start happening.

So, what do you need to cause to happen?

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.

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.

The Meaning We Give It

When you hear a discouraging word or someone says something false or unkind about you, remember this:  those words only have the meaning you give them.

Unkind thoughts, words, or opinions of others are not an indictment or sentence someone else gets to place on you.  You are the one who decides what meaning, if any at all you give to those words.  If someone says that you’re, say, selfish, and you’re clearly not, you don’t have to be negatively impacted by theirs words or opinion.  You can decide that those words don’t ring true about you, and therefore have no meaning for you.  You are then free to let those words go and not carry them around with you.

If perhaps, in this scenario, you realize that you are indeed selfish, the meaning you give those words may be along the lines of agreement and that this is an area you’re going to seek to better yourself.  A rebuke of who you are is not the meaning you give them, but rather it’s a picture of something you’d like (you decide) to change about yourself.

We can also give positive meaning to words of encouragement or affirmation.  We can take these words to mean that we’re on track to being the person we’d like to become.

We are the ones who get to decide the meaning we give something.  It is not placed on us by others but determined by us alone.  What a privilege!

“Make every minute two:  one to experience it, one to savor it.”  ~Neal Peart

“Your gonna miss this.  You’re gonna want this back.  You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.”  ~Trace Atkins – You’re Gonna Miss This

I’ve been thinking about the passing of time lately.  Isn’t it amazing how quickly it goes by?  Consider the following scenarios:

You plan a vacation and eagerly look forward to it.  Before you know it, you’re actually experiencing it.  Then, almost overnight, it seems, the trip is a 5-year-old memory.

You and your new spouse are just starting your lives together.  You’ve got nothing but dreams for the future that you’re excitedly anticipating.  You can hardly wait to move from your current situation to the life you envision.  Before you know it, you’ve realized some of your dreams and you’re looking back at where you started with 2 thoughts:

  • That went fast!
  • Those were some good times!

Time’s march, at a 24-hour cadence, is steady and brisk.  When I was in basic training for the Army National Guard (several decades ago!  Like it was yesterday.)  I was amazed at how slow each single day went, yet how fast the weeks and months seemed to fly by.

This steady cadence reminds me to take time to enjoy the experiences I’m having as I’m having them because they’ll be memories (and soon old memories) before I know it.

Let’s make sure to makes sure to not only experience our moments, but to savor them as well.  They go so fast that it would be worth stretching them out as much as we can.

Start At Disaster

I’ve been playing the electric bass for 3 years now, and while I know a whole lot more than I did 3 years ago, I’m acutely aware that I have a lot more to learn.

When I listen to professional bass players, or those who have put in years of effort, I’m amazed at the skill and mastery they possess.  To me, their playing looks effortless, and reminds me how far I still have to go.  Yet their skill also reminds me that every master was once a disaster.

I know for certain that the best bass players didn’t start out that way.  When they first picked up a bass for the first time, they were likely a disaster… just like I was!  They didn’t stay there however.  They put in the effort to eventually become a master at their craft.

I think that’s cool.  Mastery isn’t the starting point, disaster is.  When we begin something new, we’re not supposed to be any good at it.  You know why?  BECAUSE IT’S NEW!

It’s only when we continuously learn about our chosen craft and apply what we’ve learned, that we’re on our way toward mastery.  And if we continue this process, we are, by definition, a success:

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.”  ~Earl Nightingale

So, embrace the disaster that you’re sure to be at the beginning of your next new undertaking.  For it’s the starting point on your journey toward mastery.