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.

Small Beginnings

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin […]”   ~Zechariah 4:10

The first stages of a new venture always seem small.  Whether it’s getting in shape, building and growing a business, pursuing an educational goal, building a new house, learning a new skill, or any number of big worthy pursuits, the initial steps are small and feel insignificant when compared to the overall goal.  However, it’s important not to poo-poo this stage in the process, because from small, seemingly insignificant beginnings are where great things start.

Very rarely (actually never, in my experience!) does a big goal start out as a great success in the early stages.  Significant results come slow initially, and require consistent effort over time… lots of time!  This is where people can feel like they aren’t making progress, become frustrated, and give up on their goal during the small beginnings. 

For this reason, it’s important to be aware that our big goals will grow from small beginnings, so we shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed by them.  Small beginnings should be an expected, and even welcomed, part of the pursuit of our goals.

Is there a goal you’ve recently started that you’re feeling frustrated by?  Does the lack of perceived progress leave you considering giving up on your goal?  If so, I encourage you to look at this time as the small beginnings of your larger goal; much like the progress of the growth of a large oak tree.  Would you be frustrated with an oak that was only a few inches tall after a year?  Out of frustration, would you pull that young oak out of the ground and throw it away because it wasn’t a full-grown mature oak after such a short time?  Of course not!

Then why would we do that with our goals?

You Learn As You Go

I did it!  I potted and started pruning my first Bonsai tree.  Last week I wrote about how I finally caused something to happen to get me int Bonsai.  Now I’m learning that although I’ve discovered much about potting, pruning and shaping, there’s still a lot I don’t know, but that’s not keeping me from getting started.

After I got my juniper start, I was reading how to pot it and discovered that there is a lot written about the soil you should use.  Apparently, there are certain soil mixtures that work best for certain trees.  I found myself getting overwhelmed with what specific kinds of soil to use, where to get it, and whether I was making the right choice.  Ultimately, all these questions were keeping me getting the juniper potted.

Finally, after much reading, and little success finding the perfect soil mixture, I bought a plain old bag of Bonsai soil and got it potted.  Maybe the exact soil would have been a better choice, but for me, the more important point is to just get started and learn as I go.

My plan with learning Bonsai is to gather enough knowledge to take the next step… and then to take it.  I can always check my results and adjust my actions as I gain experience. 

I’m grateful we don’t have to have all the answers before we get started on a new endeavor.  For me, a lot of the fun comes from learning as I go.

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.

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.

Those On Your Team

Earlier this week I had a video visit with my primary care provider.  Nothing major, just a follow up from a previous annual visit.  I really like my doctor and as he was talking to me, I was extremely grateful to have him to help me navigate the healthcare world when I need it.  I am grateful to have him on my team.

We all have a team.  Our team are those people we seek out when we need advice or guidance in an area where we are not very skilled or familiar with, or they’re those people we regularly visit to make sure we’re on the right path.  A team can consist of such things as a:

  • Doctor or dentist
  • Financial planner
  • Trusted mechanic
  • Personal trainer
  • Pastor
  • Coach

One thing that is nice about our team is that we get the privilege of picking who is on them.  As such, we should be looking for specific attributes when we’re looking for someone to join our team.  For example, what I especially appreciate about my doctor is that he takes the time to teach me about the concepts he’s talking to me about in a way that I can understand.  He doesn’t dump a bunch of jargon on me that I’m not familiar with, and then get frustrated that I don’t understand what he’s trying to tell me.  He actually teaches me.  I come away from my visits with him knowing more than I did when I arrived.

I also appreciate that he asks me if I have any questions.  He’s not an information dump truck that quickly dumps a pile of information on me and drives off.  He wants to make sure that I leave with my questions answered, versus making sure that I just leave.

The next time you’re seeking to add someone to your team, do your homework.  Make sure they have the attributes you’re looking from someone who will influence your decision making in a certain area of your life.  And if you have someone on your team that doesn’t have the attributes you’re looking for, perhaps it’s time to consider replacing them.  It’s your team.  Fill it accordingly.

“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.

Being an Expert

Earlier this week I was working on a project with two colleagues from work.  These two had spent a significant amount of time with the dataset we were working with, and it didn’t take long to realize that these two had a significant understanding of the intricacies of this data.

As we struggled to figure out a solution to our specific problem, one colleague said, “I feel like I should know more about be an expert at his point.”

His comment intrigued me and caused me to consider what an “expert” is.  We hear this term thrown around frequently, especially during this pandemic.  After thinking about his comment, I told him that I thought an expert was someone who has spent more time learning, understanding, and experiencing a topic than most folks.  Being an expert doesn’t mean we have all the answers (in my searching through definitions of expert, not one mentioned being all -knowing… that’s God’s domain!) it means we have knowledge, skill, and experience that we can apply to solve new problems and address new questions.

I told my colleague that definition would qualify him as an expert on the dataset we were working on.

We’re not required to have all the answers to be an expert, and we certainly don’t have to possess all the answers to offer our knowledge and experience to solve a problem.  So, the only expectation is that you share the knowledge, skill, and experience that you have.